The Other Words

Performance: 7 hours at Nuit Blanche, Montreal,  2014

 

Chun Hua Catherine Dong feeds pre-masticated rice to a white male mannequin head for four hours at Nuit Blanche in Montreal in 2014

Chun Hua Catherine Dong feeds pre-masticated rice to a white male mannequin head for four hours at Nuit Blanche in Montreal in 2014

Chun Hua Catherine Dong feeds pre-masticated rice to a white male mannequin head for four hours at Nuit Blanche in Montreal in 2014

Chun Hua Catherine Dong feeds pre-masticated rice to a white male mannequin head for four hours at Nuit Blanche in Montreal in 2014

Chun Hua Catherine Dong feeds pre-masticated rice to a white male mannequin head for four hours at Nuit Blanche in Montreal in 2014

Chun Hua Catherine Dong feeds pre-masticated rice to a white male mannequin head for four hours at Nuit Blanche in Montreal in 2014

I set a desk and two chairs in an indoor space. I sit on a chair, and a mannequin in front of me. There is a plate of cooked rice on the desk, I use a spoon to scoop rice, put it into my month, and slowly chew it until it becomes soft and warm. And then I carefully transfer the rice from my month to the spoon, and feed the mannequin in front of me. This process is repeated until the rice on the plate is thoroughly transferred.

This performance issues communication and linguistically phenomena with minimalistic gestures. It refers that the sense of authenticity, integrity and beauty of resource language get lost in translation. The rice in this performance is a metaphor of text. I am sitting on a desk, translating a big plate of text to my reader who is devouring this plate in its translated form. My reader may understand the subject, but the quality of what he/she has consumed is definitely not the same as the original once. In fact, translating a text is like chewing up rice and then feeding it to somebody else. In performance, what I feed to people is still rice. However, this transformed rice has already lost its flavor and nutrition. It is the same in translation, clarity and fluency of source text might still be kept in a target text. However, the source text and the target text can never be the same because fidelity in translation is the root that translators strive to approach but it can never truly be reached.

The processing of eating and feeding rice to the others is a process of self-translation, a communicative situation, from one cultural context to the other.  My body in this performance is a cross-cultural mediator, rendering my experiences into the both languages. In this performance, I am not producing another original, but a reflection of difference that tailors reality and identify to suit conscious ideological needs.  What I offer is not unbiased textual fidelity, but a taste of the otherness in cultural communication.

In 2016, a new piece is developed by replacing the mannequin with a naked man. Please visit
http://chunhuacatherinedong.com/portfolio/the-other-words-3/

photo credit:Parham Yazdy