Youngok ‘Victoria’ Lee is a composer, artist, dreamer and larrikin. Just before I’d arrived in Vienna Victoria wrote via LinkedIn inviting me to a performance of her new work. I was unable to attend given my schedule at the time was nothing short of, well, full. Some how we kept in touch and with my stay in Austria extended from 2 weeks to 2 months we were finally able to meet.
I took the U4 to Währinger Straße-Volksoper and with a little help from a downloaded map I found my way to Galerie, Sechsschimmelgasse 14. I wasn’t sure why we were meeting there. Perhaps it would be a cafe, or a space aligned with a music school? I had no idea. I wasn’t expecting an art gallery and certainly not one exhibiting Victoria’s musical and visual pedagogy.
Originally from South Korea Victoria studied piano since 7 and composition in her late teens. The work she shared with me were her graphic compositions and the experiences that led to them.
From childhood dreams, invigorated by the patterning of the wallpaper in her room, with no stories told to her at bedtime, her imagination took its own course and flourished in its night-time patterning not unlike, Victoria was told, Mandelbrot’s psychedelic depictions of chaos theory.
Her early drawings are, according to Victoria, pretty accurate depictions of the imagery she would create, or rather, allow her mind to conjure and lead her through, so much so that these works continue to draw themselves out from those childhood evenings into her work to this day. Some of these visual representations, Victoria described, expand relentlessly, but there is a point where they need to be trimmed, or hauled in otherwise they would flow out in all directions continuously. Pointing to our heads we both agreed “it’s bigger on the inside.”
Her scores went on to depict these visceral childhood experiences both as sound and score, some of which, she described, are tremendously complex and difficult to perform. A work for oboe seems to be entirely focused on tonality and timbre where both notes and visual accompaniment describe to the performer the means by which to mutate a cluster of notes over time and, I guess, something resembling a textured volume, or mass.
The exhibition included cut-ups of her compositions, framed works on black tissue-like paper, though I’m uncertain whether intended to be performed. Others were perforated with a hole-puncher. The holes and dots representing notes. Large photo prints of her scores photographed close-up and skewed angles filled the gallery. These works connecting her scores to the lived and build environment. Some resembled train tracks, others the cross-thatched overheard power-lines that drive trams throughout Vienna, also rural fencing and the charred remains of a forest fire.
Here’s one of Victoria’s remarkable compositions for piano.
For more about this fabulously talented composer: