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What happens to our sense of identity as we move through different cultures?
What does it take to assimilate? Do we want to assimilate? Can we assimilate? My desire is to connect, to find similarities, bridge differences, to understand who I am talking to. When I step into different cultures I carefully observe the body movements, hand gestures, tone, I observe the physical language of the culture. I become so immersed in the observations and the desire to assimilate them that I can become suddenly surprised to find that I am still me.
‘My Eyebrows Fell Off’ is a video monologue responding to my personal experience of being in Japan. Tackling the issue of assimilation and identity, bearing witness to a desire to assimilate next to the impossibility of that action.
Late one night in Tokyo I am standing in the bathroom in front of a small mirror splashing my face with water. I look up and see my face in the mirror. I am startled because my eyebrows are gone and with my fingertips I touch my eyebrows. And I laugh, of course they are still there. But what happened? Why did my eyebrows seem invisible? The confusion lasted no more than twenty seconds, but observing the smallest details often reveal the larger issues. I asked myself that night, what happened, where was I, what could this possibly signify? I was in Japan, I had just come home from a small Yakitori bar, in the bar I was the only caucasian, everyone around me had black hair and black eyebrows.
When we move through different cultures it is important to understand those cultures, respect them. As humans we have a desire to become part of the group. When we shift cultures we see ourselves in unexpected ways. We see ourselves as foreign. There is a real internal struggle as we explore our identity, as we attempt to fit into a new environment and culture. In the mirror I was startled to discover the paleness of my own coloring. I was startled to discover I wasn’t Japanese. But why did I even think I was Japanese?
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