Broken English [Punctuation]
Broken English is an artist’s book about European colonization and its effect on modern society, especially regarding language. The Prologue and Punctuation Marks blend English dictionaries with languages from Britain’s former colonies. In this case, India and East Africa. Punjabi, Swahili and English intermingle in a composed cacophony. Having imposed itself on every page, the English language dominates the installation. The Prologue and Punctuation Marks also contain pages from novels in the Western literary canon that are hailed as must-read classics. These include Moby Dick, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Canterbury Tales, The Last of The Mohicans, and Heart of Darkness. All share the theme of a European or American male traveling through unfamiliar land. When the men encounter natives and people of color, the descriptions are rarely (if ever) flattering. Brown characters are often depicted as unintelligent, violent and speak with broken English.
Riddled with negative depictions, these tales reinforce Western notions of social hierarchies based on race, class and gender. To counter that, I recklessly dismembered pages from the books and literally disrupted the English narrative. By mixing the dictionaries and stories together, Broken English directly connects invasion, imposition, and implication.