AM I/I AM
Illustrator, Photoshop, Spray Paint
Illustrator, Photoshop, Spray Paint
Am I/I Am is a pop-up installation that explores the struggles and hardships second generation Vietnamese-Canadians go through regarding our ethnic identity. Throughout the space, familiar Vietnamese household objects are recontextualized in relation to our feelings of intangible alienation.
There are many studies that express the disconnect second generation Vietnamese-Canadians feel with their Vietnamese identity when apart from their ethnic group, many of them feeling as though they are not “Vietnamese enough”. However, we have yet to thoroughly explore and discuss the second generation feeling disconnected from their Vietnamese identity even when with their ethnic group.
Lunar calendars are items many of us recognize and have most likely seen in our grandparents’ homes, our own homes, or the grocery store. Waking up and tearing a page off of the calendar becomes a habit we develop as the days go on. Despite this habit, we almost always overlook the contents written on the calendar. On the lower half of each page, there is an overwhelming amount of information shown to us such as auspicious and inauspicious times, the clashing zodiac sign for the day, and things to avoid doing.
For each calendar, I took the abundant amount of information and replaced them with segments from each interview I had conducted. From afar, one would most likely not notice the change until closer inspection. The viewer must make an effort to take a closer look, and read through the entire page. Had the viewer not noticed, the transcribed interviews would’ve been left unread and unacknowledged.
Pulling from the survey responses regarding the participants’ thoughts on their ethnic identity, four were spray painted onto the ends of individual brooms. After being spray-painted, I used the brooms every day for the approximate two months leading up to the pop-up. As the days passed by, the brooms became more abstract and disoriented after each use. The brooms are meant to represent the thoughts in a physical form.
With these brooms, I maintained and up-kept the place that I was raised in and formed my identity in. Every time I picked up the brooms, I was reminded of these thoughts. I was able to witness the quick deterioration of each broom, and how quickly the paint faded away. As the brooms hang from the ceiling, the viewers will struggle to make out what each of them says, only being able to catch a glimpse as they slowly twist and turn.
For the last part of the pop-up, I set up an altar, mimicking the celebration of the new year which we call Tét. The altar serves purely as a demonstration within the space. During this holiday, we offer food to our ancestors as a way to welcome them to our world and wish them for prosperity.
As a celebration where it is believed that everyone is welcomed and no one is necessarily “alone”, it contrasts with the rest of the space which is about individuals who feel slightly alienated. The altar ends up becoming a guessing game of who actually understands what to do, versus those who are going with the flow and copying others.
Through Am I/I Am, we bring recognition towards the struggles second generation Vietnamese-Canadians go through in regards to their ethnic identity among their ethnic group and create a space for discussion. Forming a space for discussion creates connections of relatability, while also opening up opportunities for others to recognize and realize what second generation children are going through. Trying to figure out our ethnic identity as second generation Vietnamese-Canadians is difficult, and I hope that this pop-up brought comfort and reassurance that others are dealing with the same hardships.