Clara Chow examines the current state of 'citizenship test' multiculturalism and 'handbook'
immigration in Australia with Problematic Translators at Immersion Therapy.
Exploring notions of cross cultural identity, translation and the language barrier, Clara's
video based works are simultaneously mocking and compassionate statements on the
current state of multiculturalism and immigration in Australia.
By translating original content from English to Cantonese and back into English again,
Clara's Primary Ballad (2008) embodies the arbitrary nature of information without context,
making comment on the Australian Government's requirement of new immigrants to
undertake a Citizenship Test and the accompanying 'Becoming Australian' handbook
produced in service of the test.
Combining the Asian phenomenon of Karaoke (a modern ESL learning tool) with a healthy
dose of Australiana, with Primary Ballad Clara establishes a visual world in which two
cultures sit side by side; neither fully articulated for the other. As Clara notes “the result is
both absurd and metrical, both a simulant of the English mistranslations seen (in
contemporary culture)... and a figurative representation of the forced transference of
The videos are encased within a politically styled structure, and to be viewed, viewers must
step into ‘polling booths’, thereby replicating the protocol of the ‘democratic duty and
privilege’ of those who have already passed the test. In satirizing the need and cultural
insult of the Citizenship Test, Primary Ballad provides an alternate means through which
new migrants can attempt to learn about and identify with Australia. Using the popular and
multi purposed karaoke medium instead, migrants are offered an instant familiarity and
effectively bypass the need to read a 31 page manual in the process.
As a Hong Kong born Chinese-Australian, Clara’s practice is based on the cross-cultural
observations she makes in multi-cultural Australia. A bilingual speaker, Clara’s interest in
language reflects its dual role as both representative of culture and part of ethnic identity.
A timely exhibition in the face of Australia Day and Chinese New Year celebrations, which
both fall on January 26, 2009.