The Voice is an Archive, named after the following video, is an ongoing body of work examining the many ways that language is bound up with identity and history. This body of work focuses on the voice, text, and sound as crucial material for investigation.
The Voice is an Archive
Single-channel digital video
Black & white, sound
With Phương Mai Nguyễn, Hồng Ngô, Phoenix Chen, and Hương Ngô
Documentation of a performance in which Ngô, her niece, and her sister are attempting to replicate a recording of her mother's singing. The title proposes a reimagining of something as bodily and temporal as the voice to carry the weight of history, culture, and information as an historical archive. It is also a reclaiming of the imperfect, non-fluent, and incomplete as a body of knowledge of importance and interest.
The bilinguals (Carolina Chickadee)
Two-channel sound installation
The Carolina Chickadee is bilingual in certain parts of the US, meaning that it can speak both its own dialect and that of its close cousin, the Black-capped Chickadee. In this two-channel sound installation, inspired by the ability of this tiny hero, a mother and child speak to each other in different languages, mimicking the way that immigrant families often communicate. While making themselves understood, this type of cross-speaking reveals the gaps in language, the potentials of bilingualism, and the loss that immigrant families often endure.
To Learn a Language
Performance with cassette tape recorder
I use the simple device of a cassette recorder to create a language learning tape in real time. Beginning with a seemingly innocuous series of questions, my responses on the second round of recording reveal hidden narratives of gendered power inequalities, geopolitical struggles, and family trauma through a constant shifting of subject positions and subtle nuances of tone.
Flashcards for a Counter-Occupation
Pen on paper
Flashcards with Vietnamese words related to the Japanese occupation of Vietnam during WW II. The words are based on my mother's recounting of the event and the famines that resulted from the Japanese forcing Vietnamese farmers to grow grass for army camouflage instead of rice.
The Silent Period
In collaboration with Or Zubalsky
Three-channel sound installation, paper contract
The “Silent Period” is a term used in the study of linguistics to describe the stage during which a new language learner refuses to speak her/his new language. In this multi-channel sound installation, Ngô and Zubalsky mobilize the phrase as a metaphor for possible strategies of resistance against impositions of a dominant language, often implicated in and enacted on multiple registers of culture, education, commerce, and governance. Through strategic uses of silence in the reading of appropriated texts, the installation renders a 'lack' of spoken language production into a call for acts of critical listening.