Listen to Me Underwater

Siwon Noh

Vav - Moving Image


When strangers shout “Ching chang chong” or “Nihao” at me in the street, or when people tell me my English is impressive “for an Asian”, I am deprived of my language. Experiences of alienation and racism force me to ask myself: What if I really am alien?

Listen to Me Underwater is a performance that explores the struggle to communicate with the outer world. Audience members find themselves ‘underwater’ together with the performer. If we talk under the sea, words become visible as isolated breath bubbles. These bubbles become a means for deconstructing the boundaries and boxes imposed by society. When an alien is in an alien world, it is no longer alien, after all.

Listen to Me Underwater draws references from Haenyeo, who are Korean traditional women divers. Often Haenyeo identify themselves with the sea, instead of the land. Besides this, feminist theorists frequently have pointed them out for a new take on Korean gender roles, against Confucian values. Siwon Noh finds Haenyeo empowering as they appear to live beyond land-based perspectives and conventional norms.

Listen to Me Underwater contains words extracted from three South Korean poems: Haenyeo Go In-o, There is No Day Without Waves and What Holds the Breath Underwater (from the book Haenyeodeul by Heo Youngsun, published by Munhakdongne in 2017). Processed and translated by Alex Heeyeon Kil.