The Cyborgs Have Always Been Zombies 10.4.22

The Pulse of Art History Lecture

Soyi Kim

October 4, 2022, 4:45pm, Goldwin Smith Hall G22

The Cyborgs Have Always Been Zombies: South Korean Body Politics and Lee Bul’s Body Art


This presentation revisits the early body art of Korean artist Lee Bul before she became internationally renowned for her Cyborg series (1991-present) and dystopia-themed sculpture series (2002-present). I read Lee’s early art as not only having a formative effect on her later works, but also a response to South Korean government’s control over women’s reproductive rights: its decades-long abortion bans and family planning campaigns to curb female fertility. I argue that zombie, a figure that often indicates the status of social death in critical theories, helps locate Lee’s artistic critique against the modernizing South Korea’s developmentalist and masculine visions.

Soyi Kim is the inaugural LB Korean Studies Postdoctoral Fellow of the East Asian Program at Cornell University. Her research includes contemporary art, postcolonial studies, transnational feminism, new media studies, and history of medicine of modern and contemporary South Korea and the Korean diaspora. Her work also engages with biopolitics, as Koreans encountered the Japanese and subsequently American occupation and as diverse medical and bureaucratic interventions have affected the bodies and health of Koreans. She earned her PhD in Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature at University of Minnesota. 

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