Silent Citizen / Bambitchell / Participatory Sound and Video Installation / 2014
One of the crucial steps in the Canadian immigration process is an English Language test, which all applicants (regardless of their country of origin or first language) must write. The use of the English language to deter access to immigration based on the spoken word remains one of the ways that language continues to be used to maintain a degree of racism within Canadian bureaucracy and beyond.
In this installation Bambitchell invites viewers to playfully participate by taking the language test themselves - in the performative style of karaoke. In doing so they are required to follow a set of rigid rules and cues that tell them when to speak and when they must remain silent. The results of the tests are recorded, stored and played back throughout the course of the exhibition. As more people speak into the microphone, and a variety of different voices are archived, the sound of “proper” Canadian speech is rendered indiscernible. In this way Silent Citizen reveals the impossibility of the testing process to create a homogenized national subject, rather demonstrating its existence as an arbitrary remnant of a colonial fabric that still needs to be unraveled.
Premiered at the Images Festival, Toronto, Canada April 12, 2014
Technical and sound design by Heather Kirby