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Artist Presents His Interactive Work

By Brian D. Goldstein, Contributing Writer

An artist who turns everyday activities like sleeping and eating into exhibitions described his unconventional interactive art to a packed house at the Graduate School of Education last night.

Lee Mingwei, the Office for the Arts Marshall S. Kogan visiting artist this year, gave a slide lecture as a preview to “The Harvard Seers Project,” his public art installation that will open this Friday in Memorial Hall.

Like his other work, Lee said the project will focus on fostering intimacy between strangers and increasing opportunities for reflection.

In the installation, Lee will facilitate meetings between “seekers” looking for advice and “seers” offering various forms of introspection.

“It has to be strangers,” Lee said. “There is something very dynamic that happens when strangers are put together.”

Although the project will still be interactive, Lee said he will not be as much of a presence in “The Harvard Seers Project” as he was in “The Dining Project” and “The Sleeping Project,” two of the seven different installations he described in his talk.

He discussed his 1998 installation “The Dining Project” at the Whitney Museum of American Art, in which each day Lee invited one visitor to come to the museum after hours and eat a meal he had cooked.

Memories of his frustration in meeting new people upon moving to New Haven for graduate school at Yale inspired the exhibit, he said.

Lee told of his attempts to meet strangers by sitting with them at coffee shops and restaurants, a practice he had become used to while living in Taiwan.

His solution, putting posters all over Yale advertising “introspective conversation and food-sharing,” and inviting anyone interested to dine with him in his studio, brought responses from 45 people, some of whom became close friends.

Another installation, “The Sleeping Project,” brought strangers to Lee’s gallery to sleep in the same room with him for one night, Lee said.

Many of the interactions resulted in deep conversation, he said. And though he initially worried about his safety, he found that letting his guard down usually relieved any tension.

“I decided I needed to survive psychologically and emotionally in order to do the project,” Lee said.

Lee acknowledged that he takes a unique approach to his artistic practice.

“I try not to define myself as an artist, because if I do, then I also have to find a definition of art,”Lee said. “It’s not interesting for me to do that.”

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