Dohee Lee


Doris Duke Impact Award, 2015
Multidisciplinary Performance, Theatre

Oakland, CA

Since 2004, Dohee Lee has combined traditional Korean dance, music, and shamanism with modern mediums including electronic instruments, video, and customized software. Through this amalgamation of old and new, she creates an innovative form of ritual performance. Based on the legends of Mago, the creator goddess in Korean mythology, her multimedia work MAGO (2014) features a series of six, site-specific cleansing rituals. Representing Mago’s home, the ocean is symbolically present, and in the final chapter, she becomes a Mermaid Warrior who fights for female power in the future. Her work FLUX (2008) was influenced by I-Ching, which is also called the Book of Changes. It used Chinese Philosophy to question historical challenges between Korea and America, and included an I-Ching reading with divination sticks. Her current work ARA: Waterways Time Weaves integrates people’s stories with movement, music, installation art, and technology to form a community-driven performance ritual.

  • Photo Credit: Pak Han
  • MAGO: Mask, Tree, Crow (2014)
  • Mermaid Warrior (2014)
  • Photo Credit: Pak Han
    Crow (2014)
  • Photo Credit: Pak Han
    Mermaid Warrior (2014)
  • Photo Credit: Pak Han
    Crow (2014)
  • Photo Credit: Pak Han
  • Photo Credit: Jason Lew

Suppose you just met someone who didn't know your work. What project from the past 10 years would you direct them to as an entry point to you and your work, and why?

MAGO is the latest work in my journey towards creating a new ritual/performance form. MAGO is a deeply personal work that begins with my life – the history and mythology of my home island, Jeju; the past and future lives of my ancestors; and the experience of being an immigrant female artist in the USA. Through three years of development and a collaborative process, I explored multi-dimensional terrains of storytelling (physical, emotional, social, political, geographical, spiritual), connecting the details of my story to universal themes. I keep creating because I passionately believe that by practicing, educating, and performing art, we can heal the divide between people, nature, and spirits. I have committed my life to this vision. Art gives me the power of transformation to confront these challenges.