Interactive exhibit brings Bruce Lee’s book collection to life

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Before Bruce Lee became an international superstar known for creating his own style of martial arts and starring in movies alongside legends like basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lee was an 18-year-old working in Ruby Chow‘s restaurant on Broadway where he also rented a room in the attic.

Now the Wing Luke Museumwhich features artifacts from Lee’s life and has curated exhibits dedicated to his story, partners with the Bruce Lee Foundation to showcase a new exhibit, “Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee,” which opens Saturday.

The exhibit features interactive displays and graphics that allow the public to immerse themselves in Lee’s teachings while walking through his personal journey of discovering his famous philosophy of mind, body, and spirit.

“We’re really excited because this is the first interactive exhibit we’re doing,” explained Lee’s daughter, Shannon, who is president and founder of the Bruce Lee Foundation. The Wing Luke Museum currently houses Bruce Lee’s collection of 2,800 books. Lee himself studied these books, which cover topics ranging from physical combat to philosophy and self-help, and also include interesting titles like “Slimnastics.”

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The idea for this new exhibition was born out of Shannon Lee’s attempt to express to the public the importance of her father’s vast collection of books. Lee’s collection, which is physically displayed throughout the exhibition, gives the public a unique look at the titles Lee studied on his own path to self-enlightenment.

“We try to express through his book collection, his feelings about his philosophical idea of ​​being like water,” Lee explained. “So this exhibit explores that idea tells you the origin story of his philosophy on water, and how it came to be.”

The name of the exhibit, “Be the water, my friend,” was a phrase Bruce Lee would say often, and it’s the title of the book Shannon Lee wrote to illuminate her father’s teachings and philosophies. The book, published in 2020, uses his father’s teachings to lead readers down a path of personal growth.

The new exhibit uses Bruce Lee’s notes and quotes from his personal collection of books to guide the public through his teachings using interactive art and graphic installations.

The creative team behind this new exhibit includes interactive designers from the award-winning company meow wolf experience – an interactive, hands-on and fully immersive art experience that leaves audiences feeling like they’ve been transported to a psychedelic alternate reality.

This partnership has resulted in an exhibition that combines physical artifacts – like Lee’s books, his handwritten notes, his old boxing gloves – with interactive screens that the public activates by walking on lighted platforms. These platforms, accompanied by the soothing sounds of water, display the quotes Lee has made in his books and activate images and videos that show how Lee has incorporated these quotes into his life.


Caption: An interactive part of the exhibit, Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee, is on display Friday, July 8, 2022 at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle.  The exhibition opens to the public on Saturday July 9.

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Ruce Lee, who died in 1973 at the age of 32, was not only known as a martial artist and actress, but also as a philosopher, and here in Seattle in particular – as a civil rights activist .

Lee’s studios in Seattle were known to be open to everyone, and Charlette LeFevre, director of the Northwest Museum of Legends and Lore, remembers Lee as someone who helped fight racism in Seattle.

“[Lee’s] first American student was Jesse Glover,” LeFevre said. “He was a black man who was beaten up by two Seattle cops and wanted to learn how to defend himself.” Glover would be later become Lee’s first assistant instructor in the United States and influences Lee’s learning about African-American oppression in the United States

Lee’s story of fighting for the underdog is also what excites Wing Luke Museum Executive Director Joel Barraquiel Tan about the new exhibit.

“I’m particularly inspired by this exhibit that’s happening right now, because we’re living in a time now where we have less civil rights than when Bruce Lee was alive,” Barraquiel Tan said.

Tan says he hopes revisiting Lee’s philosophies and teachings at this time will inspire visitors.

“I think it is timely and exciting that we are reviewing his [Lee’s] values ​​and philosophies, so that we can draw inspiration from them to activate, respond to and protect our communities and protect our civil rights,” he said.

“Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee” opens at the Wing Luke Museum on July 9, 2022.

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