Jesse Chun, INDEXING MY MONOLOGUE, 2020, installation view with video excerpt, 2:41 minutes. Single-channel video, silence, MDF, mirror. 7:57 minutes. 50 x 30 x 16 inches (127 x 76.2 x 40.6 cm). Courtesy the artist

    Jesse Chun's INDEXING MY MONOLOGUE was exhibited at SculptureCenter as part of In Practice: Total Disbelief (2020).

    Jesse Chun’s work iterates the bureaucratic procedures and regulations that govern the use and experience of language, particularly in relation to translation and immigration. Her new video INDEXING MY MONOLOGUE surveys personal tools for mastering English, like the popular language learning book Word Power Made Easy, as well as diagrams for learning pronunciation and intonation, set on a kaleidoscopic background of jewel-toned watermarks from official documents.

    In a form that feels like live browsing, or a poetic research-collage demonstration, Chun introduces images and information pertaining to the early twentieth-century Ford English School, an English-language accreditation program for immigrant workers developed by Henry Ford. The program, which concluded in a costumed “melting pot ceremony” for graduates, rhetorically reflected ideas of American nationalism and acculturation while blatantly tying English to commercial productivity, a persistent global phenomenon that Chun often explores in her work’s diasporic relationship to language.

    Chun follows Ford’s program with passages from real and modified book indexes, replicating a process for distinguishing senses or meanings of words or topics—a technical extrapolation of “achievement” and “grief,” for example—that reveals an incongruity between language as a dominating, often violently enforced, ideological prerequisite for participation in an economy, a labor force, or a government and language as a multivalent, expressive mode of communication and a nuanced vehicle for mutual understanding.