The video work Mother’s Tongue (2018), by Lap-See Lam and Wingyee Wu, takes viewers on a partially speculative journey back in time through the history of Sweden’s Chinese restaurants. These restaurants have been a familiar feature of Swedish cities since the late 1970s, and at the same time embody a foreign and exotic alternative to the familiar. A first version of Mother’s Tongue was created as a mobile phone app and a walking tour of Stockholm that took users to three places with ties to either current or former Chinese restaurants.
In three chapters that play out in the past (1978), present (2018), and future (2058), Mother’s Tongue tells stories that revolve around social, cultural, and technological clashes. Language, identity, and life in a diaspora are explored through fictive monologues by three generations of women. The work also sheds light on preconceptions of proximity to Chinese culture that Chinese restaurants may create. The use of 3D modeling and computer animation establishes a distance to the places described, and underscores the Chinese restaurant’s role as a scenography—a set design in which guests may expect an experience comparable to traveling in a foreign country. At the same time, the Chinese restaurant functions as an entirely real frame for the everyday lives many people are living, often in a new country.
Curator: Andreas Nilsson