“I’ve been really comforted by the idea that culture, a lot of the time, is beyond awareness. Everything you do, and a lot of the things you think, will be perhaps in some way influenced by your Vietnamese-ness or my Chinese-ness.”
'Translating Cultures' is an intimate conversation audio between UNSW A&D students Naomi Segal and Loc Nguyen as they chat about their experiences surrounding the intersections of language, culture, art and identity.
Published last month in UNSW A&D's critical arts journal FRAMEWORK issue #22 under the theme of 'translation', the conversation givens traverses across topics of creativity, food, family, and Nicki Minaj's 'Chun-Li'.
One story Nguyen tells us how his mother is often misinterpreted by others as being ‘uneducated’, when she states “I don’t know how to say that in English’. In reality the situation reflects the restrictions of translation, as Nguyen’s mum grapples to find words in the English language that have close fidelity to thoughts and emotions.
Sometimes the restrictions of language can lead to expression through actions rather than words. Segal speaks, for example, of the way her family has expresses love through the sharing food and company. Human experience is largely shaped and mediated by language - which therefore structures our possibilities of expression.
In the conversation, Nguyen reflects on the anxiety of creating a reflective piece on translation, related o culture and family, while being doubtful that this ‘has already been done’. But he draws the conclusion that these conversations are necessary. There’s no singular universal experience, and everyone’s stories of translation, are all as much individual as they are connected”
Loc Nguyen, Still from ‘Cyborborygmus’, 2017, audiovisual, 4min 56sec.
Naomi Segal, ‘No word for loneliness: Mum’s memories of living in rural Shanghai’, 2018, Heat transfer on paper