Nikki S. Lee

 

 
Since 1997 Nikki S. Lee has been making photos of herself as she lives within the cultures of those around her. The Korean born Lee’s work is therefore as performative as it is photographic. Through the conventions of the snapshot –its immediacy, its casual composition, its artless lighting- Lee works to demonstrate the reality of her integration into the various selves and cultures she inhabits. While she has moved between a broad range of cultures and peoples in her work, she has throughout toyed with the notion of what it is to be Korean, American, Hispanic, etc. As in other projects, in the Hip Hop Project she dons not merely the wardrobe of the Hip Hop community but also its sense of itself, its gestures and its attitude.

Nikki S. Lee's Gallery

Installation view

 
This ability to dress up and transform oneself can be seen in photographers such as Cindy Sherman and the Yasumasa Morimura. The difference in Lee’s work is that she is not merely dressing up, not only playing the part. She is living it. In her various guises she becomes the thing she acts. While this calls out the specifities of each of the cultures depicted it also accentuates the fluidity of Nikki S. Lee’s own sense of who she is and how she identifies herself. The ability to be Korean, a skateboarder, and exotic dancer, Hispanic, a Hip Hopper, highlights the possibility of each of us to be who we are and who we wish to be, not bound by birth, geography or physical attributes.
  iona rozeal brown
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Ukiyo-E