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Sojung Kwon

The Way It Sounds

May 12-June 12, 2021

The Way It Sounds

Video in tablet 00:01:57 color, sound

The artist wrote out phonetically the U.S. oath of citizenship in her mother language (Korean), and now reads it aloud. People who live in the U.S. but haven't yet learned English do this often, using their own language to write out what words sound like and then reading them aloud.

Kwon invited participants whose mother tongue is other than English to write the Oath of Citizenship phonetically in their mother language. She subtitled the videos collected by each different language : Vietnamese, Spanish, Korean, Greek, German, French, Japanese, Hebrew, Italian, Hindi, Telugu . The time span when this work has been created, between February 19, 2020 and May 11, 2021, affects its reception: It is a time of a worldwide pandemic and a time of unprecedented rise in xenophobic and racist incidents together with protests and actions of resistance.

The oath of citizenship in the US is par excellence a performative speech event: on the designated day you have to be there physically and you have to move your lips and repeat the words; otherwise you cannot become a citizen.

Kwon's video performance calls attention to the many layers hidden inside this important ceremony: the foreign accent embedded in the speaking of English, the study of the constitution, and, most importantly, the disavowal of allegiance to one's country of origin, and the felt ambivalence therein. Moreover, Sojung Kwon, standing on a rooftop against a clear sky, reads aloud the written phonetic transcriptions in other languages, thus ventriloquizing other accents inevitably filtered through her Korean accent and also showing the contradictions of what one is reading, writing and listening to. In that sense, the subtitles perform the double duty of being the "script" for the artist and a visual cue to the viewer that is both revealing and opaque.

These videos are available on youtube at the following links:

Video Links :
Phonetically Subtitled in Korean _
Phonetically Subtitled in French _
Phonetically Subtitled in Vietnamese _
Phonetically Subtitled in Spanish _
Phonetically Subtitled in Japanese_
Phonetically Subtitled in German _
Phonetically Subtitled in Greek _
Phonetically Subtitled in Hebrew_
Phonetically Subtitled in Italian_
Phonetically Subtitled in Hindi_
Phonetically Subtitled in Telugu_

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