Chinese is a plus

Sylvie Boisseau and Frank Westermeyer

2008, 40:00 minutes, colour, Mandarin


“Chinese is a plus” from Sylvie Boisseau and Frank Westermeyer is an installation consisting of two class portraits and two videos (18:53 min and 17:50 min long) projected alternately on two opposite walls. There is also a 40 minutes long single screen version of the Chinese is a plus.

Chinese is a plus was shot in Stuttgart, in a language school for Chinese. In the same school youth with a Chinese migration background is learning it’s mother tongue and adult Germans with China ambitions are learning Chinese as a foreign language.

The paraphrased phrase “the others and me,” is since Sylvie Boisseau and Frank Westermeyer started their collaboration the object of their representations. They investigate a perception of the identity that focuses on the dependence of the individual on social interaction. The individual constructs himself in relationship to others. Everyone is working on his social identity … in daily opinions, accruals, deferrals and decisions.

Language is where this construction of the individual in the social context happens. Boisseau and Westermeyer are especially interested in the way language is constructed, which words are used, under which circumstances and for which purposes. In their videos, they record the use of words.

Boisseau’s and Westermeyer artistic interventions lie in the mise-en-scène of nonactors and their responses to daily situations. The selection of a physical location has a central meaning to their work. Boisseau and Westermeyer are interested in what the location contributes to the individual’s identity, and how “language spaces” reveal themselves in this physical location.

In “Chinese is a plus” the same language school delivers to some an individual identity and to others a collective identity. The German adult students tinker in the language class at their individual culture which can be expand thanks to the projection in the far China. For the youths with a Chinese migrational background the same school becomes a place where their belonging to the Chinese culture is (re-) constructed.

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