Grace Cathedral names Lee Mingwei 2022 Artist-in-Residence

Lee Mingwei. Photo/Barbara Donaubauer/courtesy of Museum Villa Stuck

Continuing to build upon its vision of a spiritually alive world, Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, has announced that famed Taiwanese-American contemporary artist, Lee Mingwei, is its 2022 Artist in Residence.

Known for creating extraordinary participatory installations, Mingwei’s work infuses ritual and beauty, where strangers can explore issues of trust, intimacy, and self-awareness.

Every year since 2012, Grace Cathedral has offered a residency to artists to create work illuminating the cathedral’s annual theme, and as they do so reimagine church with courage, joy and wonder. This year’s theme is “Year of Connection.”

“Art is an integral part of the vision and mission of the cathedral. It represents the best of what makes us human and connects us to others and to ourselves,” said cathedral dean Malcolm Clemens Young, according to the cathedral’s news release.

“Lee Mingwei’s amazing work will ignite your senses and emotions and fill you with profound feelings of peace, harmony and connection. We are honored to host his work in our sacred space for all people to experience,” Young said. 

“Labyrinth” opens with the rice encircled. Photo/courtesy Lee Mingwei

Starting Oct. 2, Mingwei will contemplate the Year of Connection and share his story and inspiration at cornerstone events such as Yoga on the Labyrinth, The Forum, the Choral Eucharist service, and “Our Labyrinth For Grace,” the culminating event of his residency.

“Our Labyrinth For Grace” is a 12-hour performance by dancers Aya Sone, Wu Cheng-Lung and Jean-Gabriel Manolis, with introductory music by the men of the cathedral’s choir of men and boys, and a finale by organist Susan Jane Matthews.

The work was inspired by Mingwei’s visit to a Buddhist temple in Myanmar, where he saw volunteers sweeping the walkways quietly and slowly. It was a gift they were giving to the community, but also to themselves — to be able to perform a ritual of cleansing but also to make a clear path for visitors.  

Still from video of “Labyrinth.” Photo/courtesy Lee Mingwei

This is Lee’s first project that is traditionally what is understood as a performance. In it, a single dancer appears with a broom and slowly sweeps a pile of rice into labyrinthian patterns for an hour and a half, before the next dancer takes the first’s place.

Although the dancers sweep the rice with a broom, they are not clearing a path but creating and destroying patterns in the exact moment when each happens. It is a dance of space and time.  

The work has previously been performed atCentre Pompidou in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London. At each location, the performance has changed, as the space and time where it takes place infuses the work with a different feeling and character.  

Lee was born in Taiwan in 1964 and lives in Paris and New York. He has a BFA from California College of the Arts and earned an MFA from Yale University in 1997. He has held solo exhibitions at museums and art biennales around the world. His projects are often open-ended scenarios for everyday interaction, and take on different forms with the involvement of participants and change during the course of an exhibition. They also often express a sense of sacredness, ritual, and beauty.

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