Magnetic Rubik's Cube: code switching
"I corrected them rudely, cutting into their half formed words with my polished English"
For European nationalities, the possession of an accent often carries positive associations, lending a “sophisticated” or “intellectual” air to the speaker. For other nationalities, suddenly one’s manner of communicating is a target of mockery and disdain. In many accounts, immigrants with accents are perceived as “less American” and therefore treated as “less a citizen.” These forms of prejudice become even more complex, when language gaps between parents and children create feelings of resentment, embarrassment and isolation. Children of immigrants have adapted to the US through the use of “code-switching:” speaking English at school and speaking their parent’s native tongue when at home. This magnetic Rubik’s Cube —based on children’s alphabet blocks and painted with colors suggestive of quintessential American food products— aims to express the linguistic difficulties that immigrant children encounter. When solved, the Cube reads a message spoken by an American-born child to her Vietnamese immigrant parents during a confrontation with a cashier in a supermarket.
Piece made for Witness Tree Project, a collaboration between RISD's Furniture Department, History Philosophy and the Social Sciences Department, andProspect Park Alliance. Press release from Hyperallergic on the exhibition (Sept 9th-30th, 2017) at Lefforts Historical House.
(Source of quote: “Mockery of Asian accents fosters shame in cultural identity” by Terry Nguyen, student at University of California. Before French colonization in the 19th century, Vietnamese script was based on classical Chinese characters. This is why the Cube is divided between Chinese and English symbols.)