The America(n)-like. archive-based installation

The objects borrowed from interviewees, digital c-print. dimensions variable. Apr 2023

I have interviewed seven different East Asian newcomers living in Ann Arbor. I asked questions such as: “what is the most-American like object/product that you have gotten or purchased here,” “why do you come to the United States,” and “why did you get/buy this?”

We (East Asian newcomers including me) came here by our own will; projecting different images, desires, and/or fears on the United States. The first thing I did when I arrived in the United States was, going to the clothes shop and buying the "most-America-like" clothes–cargo pants–that I could imagine, to look like an “American” not an alien foreigner.

How do we render “America” in our perception? What is the most “American-like” souvenir, means, or remedy have we had? I collected and archived the newcomers’ vague, abstract, and differing responses about “the most American-like.” The work reveals how “Amerca”– an overwhelmingly giant, heterogeneous, and frigtening entity for newcomers – has been fantasized, otherized, simplified, and/or re-translated for the sake of our successful residence/assimilation/adaptation in this country.

Onglish Class. performance

lecture and class materials (ppt and worksheet). Feb 2023

_nglish Class. video documentation

4’ 45” video. Feb 2023

What Is Your Name, in the United States. interview installation

iPad, steel, video in loop. Dec 2022

The video installation, “What is your name, in the United States” gathers the video documentation of interview series that I have done with Simranpreet Anand, Sunhong Kim, and Do Young Kim currently living in the United States but having their cultural roots in India and Korea. They talk about their experiences to introduce their names to others in the United States, coping with a “wrong” pronunciation or contradiction of their names. They confess that they have chosen to be a ghost or antagonist, by hiding their identities to comfort humans or teaching their names not to allow humans to approximate their identities at their convenience. In this way, I invite the powerless, unnamed, and unanchored to prove one’s own ability to do a speech. Aristotle said a being who can do speech is a political animal.

A voice of the Other–stating one’s experiences of being a ghost and antagonist–implies one’s subversive potential in the dominant and concrete politics of language, territories, and representation.  For this reason, their faces are blurred and fluctuate. Such visuals indicate their ontology of being the Other, a figure hard to see clearly but having the possibility to be visible if you understand them.

Throughout this practice, I dream of expanding a loose ally with those feeble existences who are inevitably invisible, actively uncomfortable, or diligently repetitive in their places. Bringing their testimonies is a part of the practice to gather weak, invisible forces to dream of deregulating partitions of a human and not-a-human through communal voices.

Photo by Ben Zink

Interviewee: Do Young, Sunhong, Simranpreet

©2022 Okyoung Noh   All rights reserved

Photo by Simranpreet Anand

Comedy in America. performance

video screening and performance. Dec 2022

The pieces of performance “Comedy in America” shows my minimal, failing effort to erase and modify the man-made speech in the United States–the series of comedies where people made racist jokes against “Asian” people. I perform to intervene in a human’s speech repeatedly, diligently, and feebly.

Interrupting or hijacking human speech (either spoken or written statement) is an act that invades the politics of an orderly world. This is represented as a performative interruption in my art, which is poetic but disconcerting, feeble but persistent, quiet but assertive. 

I intervene in racist comedy by reducing the speed of the videos of comedy radically so that it may sound ridiculous, not normal. I try hard, repeatedly, but all of my attempts fail by missing many of the racist sentences to slow down.

Filmed by Ben Zink