Handrails are, generally, an invisible part of the spaces we visit. We only really notice them when they are absent, when we clutch at empty air and awkwardly slip down a few steps. In An Arrangement for 5 Rooms, Yona Lee inspires delight by making handrails hyper-visible. She bends the stainless steel tubing of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki across the gallery space, in playful and challenging presentations. It’s an exhibition that succeeds in altering the way you look at everyday spaces, and encourages you to engage critically with the so-called ‘normal’.
Lee has played with what she calls the “language of the handrail” throughout her In Transit series. Inspired by extensive subway systems in Seoul as well as familiar Auckland environments, Lee has developed sculpture with a distinctive migratory quality. In 5 Rooms, Lee uses the handrails to interweave domestic and urban objects, like an AT bus seat and shower soap holder. It’s an impish and exciting use of space, simultaneously disorienting and invigorating. While the design is, of course, deliberate, it feels so inventive and spontaneous. The flow of the tubing pulls you through the rooms with intense curiousity. As an interactive exhibit, it’s perhaps the closest you’ll get to a playground in early adulthood.
Never have towels been so playful.
Image credit: Yona Lee: An Arrangement For 5 Rooms, 2022