I set a desk and two chairs in an indoor space. I sit on a chair, and a naked man 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 man in front of me. This process of eating and feeding pre-masticated rice is repeated until the rice on the plate is thoroughly transferred.
“The Other Words” is a durational performance that explores the otherness in translation and issues communication and linguistically phenomena with minimalistic gestures. Translation is political, and translating a text is like chewing up rice and then feeding it to somebody else. 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 has consumed is definitely not the same as the original once. 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.
I am interested in transfiguration and transformation – the shape and form of languages, and how translation cuts across cultural barriers and begins to address how we relate to the world. 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.
for the interview about this piece, please visit
for an essay, ” The Death of Performance Art!,” by T. Nikki Cesare Schotzko. it’s published as part of book Canadian Performance Histories and Historiographies by Heather Davis-Fisch, please visit
performed with Robert Black
photo credit: Johannes Zits