Michaelis alumnus, Kyu Sang Lee has won the Celeste Prize for Photography & Digital Graphics for his work 'The Festival of Insignificance’. This is a great achievement as Kyu's work was selected from more than eighteen hundred applications across the globe. With an a committee of jurors composed of curators and writers working actively and independently across Europe and South America, Kyu was selected initially for the shortlist in the category of Photography and Digital Media, the category he eventually won. The work of the 53 finalists presented on the exhibition at the Bargehouse OXO Tower Gallery in London reflects on current streams of thinking and production pursued by young and established generations of artists. This year’s prize exhibition at the Bargehouse, OXO Tower, showcases a plethora of voices from countries spanning Europe, North and South America, Asia and New Zealand.
The Festival of Insignificance, referenced from Milan Kundera’s novel with the identical title, is Kyu Sang Lee’s collection of long-exposure photographs of 48 different self-portraits and 48 different portraits of his friends and people around him in a certain time period. In the photographs, the lens of the camera captures the events of the artist reading, writing, thinking and the people who are in conversations with the artist. Viewers are invited to sit down and read the contents of artist’s writings and conversations.
Each photograph in the work has taken an hour of exposure time and therefore 98 hours are spent to make this whole work. 'The Festival of Insignificance' is a photographic work which captures flow of time rather than figures. Because of such long exposure, features of subjects are blurred and distorted, eventually capturing subtle traces they made during the exposure. Such method of capturing an image has indirect link to Eastern philosophy, such as Daoism and Zen Buddhism which puts an emphasis on power of the deep time that is beyond human's understanding.
By looking at the grid-shaped, repetitive set of unidentifiable portraits and reading their thoughts and minds, one realises each person’s matter is as significant as oneself’s. However, at the same time, one realises universal significance is merely an insignificance. By going through an unhurried process of reading others’ abysmal minds, one forms an invisible solidarity of anonymous individuals and strangers and catches a glimpse of altruism and philanthropy.