Storical Affairs

2 channel-video installation, 2006

Storical Affairs

A China-official primary school textbook of Chinese history was found in Japan during my residency there last year. However, it was translated into Japanese and published by a Japanese publisher. Since kanji (Chinese character) is well used in the Japanese language, I could still read some of the book and interpret it by guessing as well. I then had this idea to deconstruct the language (in a way the idea of "Official History") by reading the book with proper concern in the consistency of the reader's nationality (or ethnicity if they have to be different).

Here are two videos made. For the first one, I have one book with all the kanji crossed and a Japanese man reads every single syllable except that of the kanji. Then in the second one, all words except the kanji in another copy are crossed. A Chinese woman (to be precise, from Hong Kong) reads only the kanji in Cantonese (a Chinese dialect prodominantly spoken in Hong Kong). The visual only shows the pages being browsed and flipped. An English subtitle has been made for each video and the words are also crossed correspondingly. In the installation, two videos are played simultaneously with separate monitors/projectors and are also looped. Since the reading paces of the man and the woman vary from time to time, the lengths of two videos are different.

This work was first developed for an exchange project between artists from Taiwan and Hong Kong and was exhibited in both places with reference to this particular cultural context.

video still

video still from the Japanese channel  (more)