The real is often said to be that which hollows out the symbolic and imaginary coordinates of mental life. Recent attempts to think from the real have often produced an ironic displacement: the symbolic and imaginary coordinates are thus made to appear as though they have emerged from within the real! Myoung Ho Lee’s exhibit demonstrates effectively this profound reversal of contemporary thought which has so fascinated recent artists, theorists, and philosophers. For example, the question is now: what are symbolic processes to the tree? The tree stands against a white backdrop, a canvas. This background negates, effectively, the rest of the real, thus producing a part of the real, an object of the real: the tree stands alone in front of that canvas, highlighted for us. Is this tree not precisely the mysterious object which is peculiar to the human species, namely, the objet petit a — desire itself?
As I walked through the stunning environment of Brookfield Place in the heart of Downtown Toronto, and as I looked at the exhibit, each tree catches my eye, draws me to it, seducing me; I stand there, overwhelmed by the size. And who couldn’t be overwhelmed by these giant trees? The artist’s genius was to introduce, perhaps for the first time in photography, the paternal function. And, precisely without realizing it! The artist hollows out the real, all the more to introduce, at the other end of his aesthetic function, a real which comes into view as fantasy. Another complexity arises while viewing each piece against the backdrop of the Metropolis: the piece itself functions precisely to negate or obscure full vision of the urban environment – all the more to bring it into sight! And is this not the precise function of the recent fascination with urban gardens, small parks, and those large blocks of nature tucked away in the centre of the city? This introduces perfectly the point that any return to metaphysics, that is, any return to the real (and not simply the real as a return) serves also to displace the symbolic and imaginary coordinates, or, rather, to all the more permit them to encapsulate the real.
This is the first artwork to display the paternal function and the emergence of the objet petit a, that is, it is the first piece to isolate the aesthetic object and display it on on its own terms.