I Hereby Declare

mixed media installation, 2012
direct dye on Light Box fabrics (2 pieces, 35 1/2 x 69 1⁄2 inches each), digital video file with stereo sound, CRT television, digital media player, headphones

I Hereby Declare challenges the concept of identity through the experimental process of incorrect editing, which is one of the several approaches to databending. The digital image files of two national flags (The United States and Taiwan) were opened via the software program, Audacity, which is intended solely for editing sound files. The artist literally forced himself into being a part of these countries by combining the sound recordings of him singing both national anthems accompanied by the noise that is the resulting image data of the country flags being interpreted as sound.

As an installation, I Hereby Declare tackles the ideas of contradiction and mismatching through a variety of components. The two glitched images of each nation’s flag were printed on fabric cut to the exact dimensions of the artist’s body. Each flag is 176cm in height, which matches the height of the artist. The combined width of the two flags is 181cm, which equals the distance between the artist’s fingertips when he fully extends his arms. In the video, which is being played on a stylish Mickey Mouse TV, the artist gingerly steps in front of the camera from the left side of the screen wearing a traditional white Chinese outfit. He stands motionless for one minute and twenty-five seconds while both national anthems are being played together in the background, and then he departs discreetly from the right side when the sound loop ends. The background sound loop in the video is a mix of the generic karaoke soundtracks of the national anthems of Taiwan and the United States, the singing voice of the artist in two languages (English and Mandarin), and the noises caused by the image files of the two national flags being opened as sound data. While wearing the headphones, the listener hears the Taiwanese national anthem plus the noise from the Taiwanese flag in the left ear and the United States national anthem combined with the noise from the American flag in the right.

This “incorrect” editing process of pairing image files with a sound editing program in combination with the forced merger of two different digital data types generated glitches that caused these files to malfunction upon reopening, either as images or as sounds. This process, being used in tandem with the performative aspects, manifests the complexity of the artist’s experience of being born and raised in Taiwan, while having spent most of his adult life in the United States.