Rice Performance Series – The Other Words

Performance: 4 hours at Western Front Gallery, Vancouver, 2010


Chun Hua Catherine Dong says translating a text is like chewing up rice and then feeding it to somebody else

Chun Hua Catherine Dong is feeding pre-masticated rice to a mannequin head, she eats rice, spit it to a spoon and feed the manequin for fours hours

Chun Hua Catherine Dong eats her rice while a mannequin head is watching her, she feeds the mannequin head some pre-masticated rice for hours in Vancouver

Chun Hua Catherine Dong chews up rice, splits it on a spoon and feed a male mannequin head at Western Front Vancouver

Chun Hua Catherine Dong sets a male mannequin in front of her desk and feeds this mannequin pre-masticated rice for hours at Western Front Vancouver

I set a desk and two chairs in a gallery 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 mouth, 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 of eating rice and feeding the mannequin 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. 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 identity to suit conscious ideological needs.  What I offer is not unbiased textual fidelity, but a taste of the otherness in cultural communication.

Since 2010, I have created a series of performances that uses rice to address issues related race, gender, and diaspora. “ The Other Words” is the second piece of this series. In 2016, I develop this piece by replacing the mannequin with a naked man. Please see The Other Words (2016), or click a link I attached below. For other pieces about this series, please see links below

The Other Words (2016)
Come Home (2015)
Hourglass (2010-2013)
Another Witness (2011)
Invalid Testimony (2011)
Arrival (2010)
It is a Way of Being (2010)

photo courtesy of the artist