Inseok Choi

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<I Am Fine, Thank You. And You?> 2021

Medium: Bricks, tarpaulin, plastic LED tea lights, papers, photos, bubble wraps, adhesive bandages, and sound(loop; 7:15 min.)

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Project Statement
I still remember the first time vividly when I learned English as a kid. The phrase “I am fine, thank you. And you?” is old-fashioned but was basic to start a conversation according to the past English classes and books taught in Korean. Before I came to the United States, I always got ready to say, “I am fine, thank you. And you?” if someone asks me, “How are you?” Nevertheless, getting attention from English native speakers makes me get nervous all the time. It is an ambivalent feeling. On the one hand, talking in English overwhelms me since it is not my first language, often bringing me under language hegemony. On the other hand, I am afraid of being excluded from the community if I do not talk, so I try to speak as much English as possible and wrestle with hiding my struggles. In the meantime, this ambivalent feeling and my struggle as an alien in the States gave me the sense to recognize other beings who are often neglected and treated as invisible. Notably, I felt indefinable sadness when I found roadkills since I have a solid emotional bond with animals, and I started to identify myself with them. This stimulated me to want to ask, “Are we really fine?”

I aim to visualize my emotional experience between ‘being overwhelmed by language hegemony as a non-native English speaker in the States’ and ‘the emotional bond with other unprivileged beings, mostly roadkill.’ I Am Fine, Thank you. And You? is an installation with mixed mediums. In this installation, my goal is to mourn and have a ritual for roadkills while identifying myself with them through building up monuments which are bricks, photography of stray cats I met, and slips of papers. The slips of papers include my journal in both Korean and English that describes my observation and feelings when I encountered roadkills. The original journals in Korean are translated into English by Google Translate and merged with the original writings. I propose to call this way a half-cyborg process to bring my desire to be a better English speaker and writer. In addition, a sound composition, which reads the translated journal in English by eight different people, fills the space, and I would like to share my overwhelmed emotional experience through auralizing language hegemony; moreover, I hope this composition sounds like a prayer time from my another struggling experience of belonging which I felt fear as an unbeliever when I was in a missionary school. This project is a participation form of installation so that audiences can find the slips of papers hidden in monuments, and they can hide the papers wherever they want.