ICP Portfolio Review: Homo Solitarius
By Ashley Yu
This past week, Musée Magazine’s own editor-in-chief, Andrea Blanch, had the pleasure of being part of the International Centre of Photography’s portfolio review. It takes time, passion, and a dash of obsession to make one great piece of work, nevermind a collection of them. It is thanks to ICP that we had the opportunity to uplift emerging artists in their craft. One of the stand-outs of this portfolio review was Claire Sunho Lee’s entrancing conceptual video Homo Solitarius.
Filled with still-shots of the chaotic island that we all fondly call Manhattan, the peaceful solitary nature of Lee’s video strikes you, as you see New York, devoid of humans, through her observational eye. Cancelling out the constant flood of egotistic Wall Street businessmen, the stumbling wide-eyed tourists, and the city’s jaded inhabitants, her video is not only meditative, but it also gives us a sliver of her world view--of focusing on odd beauties in the quotidian, minutiae details, like the soothing rhythm of changing traffic lights, or the ethereal glow of ads at a bus stop in the night. As her camera lingers on surprising and random scenes of quiet beauty in a loud, if not belligerent, city, Homo Solitarius feels almost like a meditative collection of time-lapses.
Lee’s Homo Solitarius is also most memorable for her juxtaposition between tranquil imagery and sound. Imposing the onomatopoeic sounds of creaking metal, buzzing neon lights, and hissing steam, she drowns out the usual city soundtrack of police sirens, drunken arguments, and screaming school kids, that New Yorkers are so accustomed to, concentrating instead on the surprising scenes of serenity that Lee so treasures.
As Lee takes us into an immersive experience of sight and sound, you realize that Homo Solitarius is gorgeous hybrid of ASMR and synesthesia. From the sunlit scenes of store gates clanging open with a morning alarm bell to the reflections of flashing neon signs in Times Square at midnight, Lee reveals the serene symphony of New York from dusk to dawn. At the end of Homo Solitarius, the graphic of a giant red eye from a Coca-Cola advertisement blinks at us through the darkness, winking good night, and oddly enough, Lee’s New York, though void of humans, doesn’t feel lonely at all.