17 JANUARY - 24 FEBRUARY 2002
The Tourist Project will reach far beyond the confines of the gallery space as the New York-based artist will discover the city of Houston through its residents’ eyes. Volunteer participants selected by lottery will act as “tour guides” and accompany Lee to places that are personally meaningful to them. While some participants might choose to guide Lee to popular tourist attractions, others might elect to visit more private locations, such as an automobile, dormitory room, or café. In this fun, poignant process of telling and listening to stories, the city comes to be defined by the multiplicity of experiences it plays host to.
The contents of the gallery space will serve as mementos of the personal exchanges occurring outside the gallery. Photographic projections, collected objects, recordings of conversation, and pieces of clothing worn by Lee and the volunteer “tour guides” will provide evocative testaments to the artist’s excursions. The collection of objects displayed in the gallery will expand with each “tour” given to Lee in the course of the exhibition.
The Tourist Project takes the experience of tourism to the extreme. While many tourists limit their outings in a new city to a few notable sights, Lee’s excursions with his volunteer guides will occur regularly over a period of weeks. The artist’s extended tour of Houston coincides with a broader exploration of the roles of tourist and guide, guest and host.
The Tourist Project typifies Lee’s work in its attention to one-on-one encounters and its faith in the meaningfulness of the everyday. Lee’s work originates new rituals in which participants are invited to become more aware of themselves, other people, and their surroundings. Lee was raised in both Taiwan and the United States, and spent six childhood summers in a Buddhist monastery. Buddhist influences can be seen in the contemplative tone of his works, as well as in their quiet insistence on the significance of being fully present to oneself and others while carrying out ordinary activities.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Lee Mingwei was born in Taiwan 1964 and now lives in New York. He received a BFA in textiles from California College of Arts and Crafts and an MFA in sculpture from Yale University. Two of Lee’s most famous works, The Letter-Writing Project and The Dining Project, were displayed in 1998 in a one-person show, Way Stations, at Whitney Museum of American Art. The Letter-Writing Project (originally commissioned by The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia) invited museum visitors to write letters to the living or the dead, and to reflect on gratitude, insight, and forgiveness. Sealed, addressed envelopes were mailed, while unsealed letters were displayed to the public then ceremonially burned. In The Dining Project, the artist cooked traditional Asian meals for one museum visitor each evening after the museum closed. Other solo exhibitions include The Living Room(2000) at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston; The Sleeping Project(2000) at Lombard-Freid Fine Arts, New York; and a retrospective, Lee Mingwei: 1994-1999 at Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art.