Untitled #1 (fish), 2011, HD video, 3 minutes and 29 seconds, looped.
Drawing on my experiences of living in Norway and learning Norwegian, Untitled # 1 (fish) is a self-portrait performance video that investigates a partner’s influence on learning a language through learning how to fillet a fish. Not simply exploring the idea of being lost in translation, it examines the interpretation and appropriation of words.
Attempting to follow the instructions of a voice off screen, I try to connect to the new language via the memory of an old one, which is represented by similarities in the sounds of certain words. The old words of my mother tongue (English) continue to resonate inside of me while I try to fit the new words (Norwegian) to my body through the process of responding to instructions. As a result, the real self emerges as an individual, existing in a liminal space, between two languages.
In this video, the use of the knife embodies a disconnection in the self when taking on another’s tongue and trying to fit it to one’s own desires, without having a history or experiences to draw on in the language. I know how to perform the task because of general knowledge and experience in my mother tongue, such as how to hold a knife. Nevertheless, I cannot follow the instructions correctly because I do not yet own the new language. For the foreign learner the knife also represents a kind of butchering of the language; what it can feel like when first trying to pronounce foreign words. In this instance the fish represents the Norwegian language; fish being a national cuisine and a large export of Norway. This video investigates the history of language inside my body, as well as the experience of a new one. The unsuccessful results of the lesson depicted in the video suggest defiance against the patriarchal directions. I continue in my own way filleting the fish, even though I am performing it incorrectly and end up destroying it.