White Rose features a sprawling digital dreamscape where Hye Rim Lee’s long-time protagonist TOKI floats and spins through hyper-coloured imaginary worlds as she tries to escape the trauma of death and lost love on a journey to find peace. Lee’s practice is iterative and uses binarism and symbolism in the service of her narratives: White Rose was born from Black Rose (2021), which also follows TOKI through a dream world. Lee takes the skeleton of the Black Rose story, which depicts a dystopia, and alters the narrative, setting, and soundscape so that White Rose offers an opportunity for redemption and hope.
Drawing on both Eastern and Western popular culture and employing new technologies, White Rose engages with this year’s SCAPE theme of Sweat Equity through its focus on the body in digital and virtual space. In Black Rose and White Rose, as well as Lee’s earlier works, TOKI is a shapeshifter who must balance the numerous demands of feminine identity online, in real life, and in the eternal as she travels through a complex environment that both reflects and distorts her desires. The dream world that TOKI inhabits is a zone in which Lee seeks to create a paradise between the organic world of her childhood home and garden and the inorganic cyber world of fantasy.
The haunting soundtrack Lee has created with Ladyfish contributes to this emotional journey between worlds, as does her graphic sensibility. Paired with the saturated colour, simplified forms, and exaggerated anatomical features commonly associated with anime, Lee’s works are somewhat of a Trojan horse: they are enchanting short films that tell stories of subversion and resistance concerning image, romance, and devotion.