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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Title: The Hip Hop Project (2)
Date: 2001
Medium: Fujiflex print
Dimensions: Sheet: 30 x 40 inches (76.2 x 101.6 cm); Frame: 31 x 41 inches (78.7 x 104.1 cm)
Credit Line: Acquired through the Jennifer, Gale, and Ira Drukier Fund
Object Number: 2007.055
Label Text: From 1997 to 2001 Nikki S. Lee created a series of Projects, for which she posed with various ethnic and social subcultures. Immersing herself in their lifestyles over the course of weeks or even months, Lee was willing to change anything—hair, weight, clothing, skin color, behavior—to fit in. She staged herself within such diverse groups as skateboarders, Korean schoolgirls, Latinos, punks, senior citizens, lesbians, yuppies, and hip-hop musicians and fans. As an extension of Cindy Sherman’s influential film stills, which used the artifice of the isolated frame to point to Hollywood picture conventions, Lee’s starting point for her snapshot-looking photographs was a real community. Here, Lee could investigate notions of identity in the context of a group, which, according to her, is more in step “with an Eastern attitude toward identity.” At first the photographs were taken by a friend with a simple point-and-shoot camera; later she asked passersby to snap her picture to achieve even more the look of vernacular photography. As Lee once commented, “Essentially life itself is a performance. When we change our clothes to alter our appearance, the real act is the transformation of our way of expression—the outward expression of our psyche.” ("Staged, Performed, Manipulated," curated by Andrea Inselmann and presented at the Johnson Museum January 24 - June 7, 2015)


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