KONICHIWA!

(OSLO 2016)



A false gift served with a smile. Performance at an exhibition opening where I served gold paper cranes with somewhat racist remarks accumulatively experienced by myself and friends:

ni hao! / konichiwa! / translate this into chinese / but you speak korean no? / how did you learn to speak such good english? / do you speak english? / your english is amazing / but where are you really from? / is that your european name? / what is your real name? / but what’s your asian name? / but don’t you have a ching chong name? / are you halal? / it’s ok i have yellow fever / you’re pretty for a malasian / i had an asian girlfriend once / where in china is that? / go back to hong kong / wasn’t there just a coup in your country? / all chinese people hate japanese people right? / don’t be such a jew / we can just hire a polish cleaner / can i pay you to clean my house? / you look like a monkey

Some are clearly racist, such as 'Go back to Hong Kong!' whereas others are only construed as racist when heard from a minority perspective. 'Your English is amazing' may be a compliment, but when given purely because the speaker assumes that I, as an Asian, would not be a native speaker of English, the speaker is making that judgement because of my race. The same applies in reverse when being greeted with 'Ni Hao" or 'Konichiwa', in which the speaker again assumes my nationality and language ability based on my physical features. This becomes problematic because it forces me to constantly define myself by my race, which is something a majority group would never have to do. That is their privilege as a majority and something I hoped to make them aware of.
In part two of the performance, I sat on the floor in a false kimono with traditional Japanese music playing in the background. I taught visitors to the exhibition to fold paper cranes while we discussed our boundaries and definitions of racism. Using personal anecdotes based on the given remarks, the conversations took on lives of their own and visitors discussed among themselves what I had simply initiated.