Part of Tim Lee’s practice involves envisioning himself reenacting key moments from iconic peoples’ lives. In the photograph Untitled (Stanley Kubrick, 1945) (2010), Lee re-creates a self-portrait by Stanley Kubrick from 1945. Kubrick shot the original photograph in the mirror when he was just beginning his career as a photojournalist. As his career progressed, he became known for his reclusive tendencies, and candid moments like this became a real rarity. Lee mimics Kubrick’s action by photographing himself in the mirror with the same type of camera, flashbulb, and grimace.
In the film Untitled (Buster Keaton, 1897) (2010), we see Tim Lee fall down a flight of stairs, referencing a pivotal story from Buster Keaton’s life: At the age of 18 months, he rolled down a flight of stairs, casually shrugged it off, and was then and there christened with the nickname “Buster” by Harry Houdini. Lee’s film is spliced together from multiple takes of him actually rolling his way up a staircase. Sped up and played in reverse in a continuous loop, it is convincingly Keaton-esque in its slapstick humor.
Tim Lee’s two-channel video installation Party for Your Right to Fight, Public Enemy, 1988 (2006) combines the strategies of two very different artists: Bruce Nauman and Public Enemy. The side-by-side monitors (which are disorientingly out of sync) play a video of a close-up of Lee’s head reciting Public Enemy lyrics. In a further spin, Lee’s head is upside down and revolving—counterclockwise on one screen and clockwise on the other—like a pair of malfunctioning record turntables.
Inspired by Russian avant-garde artist Alexander Rodchenko (1891–1956), Untitled (Alexander Rodchenko,1928) is a series of self-portraits of a vintage Leica I camera, the first 35mm camera and the same model Rodchenko used). Taken by the camera itself with the help of an mirrored optical device, these images narrate and reflect the camera’s own history and identity. As with most of Lee’s work, this background information is not conveyed in any obvious way, but, instead, through allusions in titles and sleights of formal strategies.
Vancouver-based artist Tim Lee employs a wide range of media, including photography, video, installation, and performance to revisit and reinterpret—often humorously—particular historical moments through a constellation of references.