Flounder Lee is an artist/curator and postgraduate researcher in Art & Media at the University of Plymouth, UK pursuing his PhD in art and curatorial practice. He grew up on a farm in the US where he learned many skills that he still uses. He was raised on the ancestral lands of the Yuchi, Shawnee, Muscogee/Creek, and Cherokee peoples. Many of these peoples were forcibly removed in the 1800s to make way for settlers such as his ancestors who were from Europe.
He received his BFA from the University of Florida and his MFA from California State University Long Beach—both in studio art and photography. His group exhibitions include: From Within in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Ishara: Signs, Symbols, and Shared Languages at Concrete in Dubai; and Tashkent Biennale VIII in Uzbekistan. He’s had solo shows in Serbia, the US, China, and Cambodia.
Exhibitions curated include: The Future is…Ordinary? at the Shangyuan Art Museum, Beijing, China; On this night, for the first time, something will happen… at the Jean Paul Najar Foundation, Dubai, and Aerospacial at Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis. He founded and co-ran SpaceCamp MicroGallery, a tiny project space in Indianapolis. He has written several essays including for Tribe: Photography and New Media in the Arab World. He co-directs the More Just, More Sustainable Futures: Artistic Symposium for PhD Students.
Several overlapping themes run throughout his work: decolonialism, mapping, science, the future, and environmental change. He is media agnostic, using various media such as photo, video, performance, sound, and installation to create work that touches on these topics. Many of the same themes and media are also part of his curatorial practice, but it is broader than his art practice. His PhD project deals with a quotidian, decolonial future through both an artistic and curatorial perspective. He works using anti-oppressive practices—anti-racist, anti-colonial, anti-patriarchal, anti-heteronormative, inclusive, and intersectional with decolonial, resistance-based, and curatorial activism approaches.
Recent Artist Statement
My art practice has several threads in both media and message that cross and overlap each other. Like any well used fabric, sometimes these threads fray. The threads change over time, but common ones are science, mapping, climate change, postcolonialism, in media they are installation, photo, time-based work such as performance, video and sound.
As much as you can say a child has a passion, mine was science, especially of space, while growing up on a farm, I worked towards going to university in aerospace engineering. At university, I hated the actualities of it, so I moved quickly to art where instead of solving problems on a narrow topic, you get to explore everything, highlight/create problems, and even solve them (rarely). What never left me was the love of science, the interest in rules and preset conditions of experiments, so I often incorporate these into my art.
I spent close to a decade photographically mapping ideas around postcolonialism, going to places where Europeans and the US had colonized or interfered with indigenous/local populations. I had preset routes based on old maps that I followed and photographed.
Overlapping with this in some ways, I started mapping climate change: the melting of glaciers and the rise of sea levels. Climate change will affect developing (and often formerly colonized) nations harder than fully industrial/post-industrial countries. I also used the tools of science such as micro-photography of places that regularly flood in Bangkok.
Pulling the micro-imaging thread, I created performances dealing with political issues. Trying to find the softest sand to bury my head in… and Trying to find the best water to wash my hands of this… were reactions to the awful administration in the US which is stripping rights and wrecking the environment at an increasing pace.
I’ve created several sculptural and video installations that tackle several of my topical threads. Water Works and Drinkable were pvc pipe and sound based installations dealing with water scarcity. Mycelial Meshing talked about both water (through infrastructure) and networks (through mushrooms), bringing science and the environment together again. Just Desserts and Some things you can control, some things you can’t were video installations dealing with “mapping” a place through video imagery but also dealing with other topics such as the continuing horror of mass shootings in the US.
Recently I’ve worked on a multipart video project looking at water usage through the Aral Sea, Dubai, and Mars which continues my ongoing interest in space. This tied into my work dealing with the quotidian future where I created a large inflatable installation that was a non-place and a series of sculptures that were objects found at a secondhand market 200 years in the future as well as a video “commercial” advertising a new, perfect virtual life—for the low cost of just your body as an organ bank.
Overall, in my art practice I continue to work through interrelated topics and many media types depending on a multitude of factors. Scientific tools, preset rules, and grids are common throughout my work, but I use the ideation, experimentation, and production processes to come up with the best materials/media to convey my ideas.