March 20, 2009

Weiji Project Proposal

危机 Weiji Project Proposal:

I live in one place of the world, have one mind and one history. My Chinese collaborator lives in a different place of the world has his own mind and his own history. Having never met him, I imagine what he is like, just as he, having never met me, imagines what I am like.

When I interact with a person who comes from a different place, I can sense myself acting in response to what I imagine he imagines I am like. I have experienced before foreigners telling me, “Americans all eat McDonald’s.” With the need to defend my culture, I attempt to prove them wrong by avoiding McDonald’s and junk food so that I do not perpetuate this unflattering (and untrue) stereotype. When my foreign host family praises me for having more interest in exploring the city of Beijing than they themselves, I try even more diligently to have regular excursions to new places in the city, more than I would in my own hometown. We blow up the good and hide away the bad.

I live within the stereotypes of my culture, and at the same time strive to maintain my own person, not fighting the stereotypes for fighting’s sake, but to be true to myself.

My proposed project involves juxtaposing the images that derive from the minds of two students in similar fields of study but from opposite sides of the world. The images would concern the students’ perceptions of what the other student imagines certain things to look like how the items look in the personal life of the other. In my project, I would focus on the difference between my perception of the stereotypes of my culture as perceived by foreigners and my perception of who I am and to what degree and how those two perceptions differ. My partner in Beijing would likewise document his perceptions of how I imagine him (the stereotype of his culture perceived by foreigners) and his perception of himself compared to that stereotype.

For example, I perceive the stereotype of the dress of the typical American college student to be an emblematic sweatshirt and a pair of jeans. But, how I dress as an American college student differs from that. I would photograph the two “perceptions” and display them next to each other. My partner in Beijing would do the same for his perception of how he thinks I believe the typical Chinese college student dresses and how he himself does.

Another element to perhaps include (and what spawned this idea in the first place) is a drawing game I used to play as a child. Some friends and I would fold a piece of paper horizontally into three equal parts. Without revealing to each other as we drew, on the top section of the paper, the first person would draw a head. Then, on the middle section of the paper, the second person would draw a torso, and on the bottom section of the paper, the third person would draw the legs. When the three sections were complete, we would reveal the entire piece of paper to see the “creature” we had collaboratively drawn. An example of such a creature could be a bear’s head with a car mechanic’s body and mermaid’s legs! Sometime they were as bizarre as this or could be miraculously harmonious. I also remember there being books of this sort with three sections you could flip through to create different people with different combinations of body sections.

Perhaps I could integrate this idea into my photographic “comparisons of perceptions” in some way. For example, the creature could consist of a Chinese student’s upper body and American student’s lower body.

Other categories of perception could be:
“Formal attire”
“Having lunch”
“Travel attire”
“Leisure time”

(I think it’s best that the categories to be personal enough so that neither of us has to gather props or outfits not readily available to us, and also so that the categories remain ones existent in our own lives. I would think it beneficial if my partner and I could come up with the categories together.)