project image
Joanna Tam

first performed on July 4, 2013
an open area in Kingston Rondout Historic Waterfront District, Kingston, NY
performed once in 2013


Boston, MA


“I’m American,” “I’m American,” “I’m American…”

On July 4th, 2013, I set up my video camera in an open area in the Kingston Rondout Historic Waterfront District at dusk. During the Independence Day fireworks celebration, while other people were watching the spectacle in the sky, I said “I’m American” repeatedly to the camera, using the fireworks as my backdrop. I did it for the whole duration of the fireworks (17 minutes and 20 seconds).

As time went by and the sound of the fireworks got louder and louder, I found my voice and my exhausted body competing with the fireworks. While I was doing my action, some people who were originally there watching the fireworks started to interact with me and the camera. A young man shouted “You are not” at me multiple times. A woman came up to me, put her glow necklace around my neck and gave me a hug. Some people came next to me and said “America America” or “Tell Mama I made it,” etc., to the camera.

In this intervention/video-performance, I am interested in examining and challenging, through the use of spoken language, the notions of ethnicity and nationality in relation to one’s physical, psychological and emotional states. I am also interested in how people around me react when an Asian woman declares her identity on the birthday of America. The presence of the video camera activates and witnesses such reactions.