You Sound Funny (When You Smile)

Stefani Byrd + Wes Eastin, Interactive Storefront Installation, 2009

Featured at Le Flash!, October 2009, Atlanta, Georgia

This interactive installation reverses the roles of majority and minority to create a simulated immigrant experience for the audience. Two giant digitally projected heads of two hidden performers heckle and mock the audience in the Hmong language. The audience is unaware of the precise meaning of the taunts being directed at them but is made to feel “othered” and uncomfortable.

The two featured actors are second generation Hmong refugees who are historically a people without a country and are a minority among minorities. Microphones were placed on the street where the audience could engage with the performers. Attempts to communicate in any way other than the Hmong language were met with escalated taunts. The onus was placed on the audience to assimilate to the performers decided standards and rules for communication. By upsetting our common perception of communication in public space, this piece attempts to playfully expose our own ingrained ethnocentrism.

(Cast: Faith Her and Jeff Her)

Partial funding provided by a grant from Atlanta Celebrates Photography