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To Enclose One's Mouth



Little mouth, little mouth

sits inside a big mouth.

But do not be deceived.

Big mouth is an enclosure,

not an opening.

Follow the proper bishun.

Movement strict, 

flow fixed.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.



Little mouth, little mouth,

sits inside a big mouth.

You began as a spiral,

a meander.

Clouds and rolling thunder.

New life flows

towards the middle heart.




Little mouth, little mouth,

sits inside a big mouth.

Someone thought it’d be a good idea

to split you up.

We don’t touch anymore.

Over time

your past self 

disappeared altogether. 

I miss the warmth

in the roundness

of your old body.



Little mouth, little mouth,

sits inside a big mouth.

21st century exiles

return now to

rigid walls, 

neat and tall.

A border.

I try to speak

but my tongue refuses.

My mouth is a

perfect logogram,

a frame with no content.

So I slide to unlock

and Tap to enter text

4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art.  SYDNEY. 7 APRIL – 21 MAY 2017.

"Familiar Stranger" Artists: Shumon Ahmed, Chun Yin Rainbow Chan, Bashir Makhoul, Veer Munshi, Shireen Taweel and Curtis Taylor.

The phrase ‘To enclose one’s mouth’ is the literal translation for the Chinese word for ‘return’ or 回 (huí). Studying the etymology of the word, Chun Yin Rainbow Chan discovered that the Chinese character originally looked more like a spiral, morphing into two concentric circles, eventually finding its way to its current form. For the artist, the journey of the word for ‘returning’ was a perfect metaphor for her own artistic inquiries; the path from fluid to rigid; the turning from soft to hard; the gradual changes in language, people and the world around.


In this installation, Chan has written a poem about the concept of ‘returning’ in English. As part of this project, Chan has Google-translated the poem into Chinese. In a Sisyphean turn, Chan will write each of the characters from the Google-translated poem ten times on a looped scroll of silk, eventually writing each of the poems in full ten times. For Chan, this speaks to her childhood experiences of learning Chinese; having to write and write and re-write individual characteristics; a process she feels she is yet to master.

Text by Micheal Do, courtesy of 4A.

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