Acceptably Fluent, 2007.
Fabric, foam, PVC plastic, stainless steel, and mixed media, dimensions variable.
The hoses connect from the neck of an individual wearer to the ear of another. As they attempt to interact, their voices are delayed and distorted, disrupting communication. This communication becomes increasingly difficult as the number of people connected by the hoses increases.
Tube 2, 2003.
Brass, nickel silver, stainless steel, PVC plastic, foam, elastic, 2 x 2 inches x 96 feet.
The voice of the wearer is significantly delayed and distorted by the shape and length of the tube.
Dis-Armor, an instrument focusing on the psycho-social situation of Japanese students and school refusers”, with their difficulty of speech and facial expression, uses the ancient tradition of arms-making to conceive an alternative to face-to-face communication. The pair of video screens worn on the back displays a live image of the wearer’s eyes from the cameras attached to the helmet, and the loudspeaker below the screen amplifies the wearer’s voice. A rear-view mirror, or alternatively, another small camera, permits the operator to see the spectator behind him or her. Dis-Armor is a device to help young trauma survivors lift their shield of shame, to break inner and outer walls of silence, and to share difficult memories, critical thoughts, and hopes with others in the midst of public space. Since direct face-to-face eye and voice contact is often too difficult for these who have survived overwhelming life events, Dis-Armor offers an opportunity for an indirect, meditated communication.
Accent Elimination, 2005
Six televisions, three pedestals, six-channel video (three synchronized programs and three loops), headphones and benches
My foreign-born parents who have lived in the United States for over 40 years both have distinctive but hard-to-place accents that I have never been able to imitate correctly (and have not inherited). Inspired by posters advertising courses in “accent elimination,” I worked with my parents and professional speech improvement coach Sam Chwat intensively for several weeks in order to “neutralize” my parents’ accents and then teach each of them to me. The very existence of these courses points to the complexities of assimilation and self-image, and the tricky maneuvering between the desire to preserve the distinctive marks of one’s culture, on one hand, and to decrease them in order to seem less foreign, on the other. In the video, my parents and I struggle to hear and imitate what is so close at hand and yet so difficult to access. The accent is treated very literally, like an heirloom, and the project illustrates the very awkward attempt to concretely transfer this elusive, and ultimately culturally determined, attribute.
This is a six-channel piece, with the front “talking head” monitors showing a synchronized conversation, scripted by my parents, which plays out first in our natural accents, and at the end in our “reversed” accents. The middle section consists of outtakes from our practice sessions in my studio, and has been edited to play with the patterning and repetition of various words.
Foe represents video footage of me receiving lessons where I have hired an acting coach to teach me the “accents” of my cultural backgrounds. I am not interested in the authenticity of these accents but in the idea of being taught to speak in these voices. The text that I have learnt is taken from a book with the same titled as my piece. This book, a sequel to “Robinson Crusoe” was written by J. M. Coetzee. In this book, Friday (the savage) has been mutilated; his tongue has been removed and he cannot speak. For this work I have memorized the specific passage where Crusoe explains this to another.
The Transborder Immigrant Tool (TBT)
The Customs and Border Protection Agency’s 2009 fiscal year report documents 416 bordercrossing related deaths from January to October 2009. When the Berlin Wall fell, official reports claimed that ninety-eight people in total died trying to cross from East to West Berlin. In contrast, local and international nongovernmental organizations estimate that 10,000 people to date have perished attempting to cross the Mexico-U.S. border. The Transborder Immigrant Tool (TBT) repurposes inexpensive used mobile phones that have GPS antennae. The project represents a multi-valenced code-switch, a queer technology. Its software aspires to guide “the tired, the poor,” the dehydrated—citizens of the world—to water safety sites. Concomitantly, its platform offers poetic audio “sustenance.” Incapable of resolving the long histories of fear, prejudice and misunderstanding on both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border, TBT remembers the often overlapping traditions of transcendental and nature writing, earthworks, conceptual art, performance, border art, locative media, and isual and concrete poetries. It learns equally from the efforts of humanitarian aid organizations like the Border Angels and Water Station, Inc. “Poetry in motion,” TBT navigates the borderlands of G.P.S. as a “global positioning system” and what, in another context, Laura Borràs Castanyer and Juan B. Gutiérrez slyly misread as a “global poetic system.”
Born 2007: (CALIT2/Visual Arts Department/University of California, San Diego/Program in American Culture, Latina/o Studies/English Department/University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
Born again 2009: Media virus
By Electronic Disturbance Theater/b.a.n.g. lab
Micha Cárdenas, Amy Sara Carroll, Ricardo Dominguez, Elle Mehrmand and Brett Stalbaum
Lead researcher: Jason Najarro
Web design: Diana Le
Audio translations: Petra Kuppers (German), Yanoula Athanassakis (Greek), Felipe Zúñiga, Jenny Donovan, and Gabriela Torres (Spanish), Lili Hsieh/謝莉莉譯 and Zona Yi-Ping Tsou/ 鄒怡平譯 (Mandarin Chinese), Tatiana Sizonenko (Russian), Steve Williard (blues score)
Voices: Yanoula Athanassakis, Micha Cárdenas, Amy Sara Carroll, Zé Carroll-Domínguez, Jordan Crandall, Ricardo Domínguez, Lili Hsieh, Elle Mehrmand, Zac Monday, Patricia Montoya, Chloe Sanossian, Tatiana Sizonenko, Brett Stalbaum, Oliver Ting, Steve Willard