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YR: The only problem with masking it with Chinese Mandarin is I can only speak this paragraph, which I have learned by heart when I was visiting in China. (Laughter) So all I can do is keep repeating it in different tones and hope you won't notice.
As a child, I would hate being made to wear the Indian kurta pajama, because I didn't think it was very cool. It felt a bit girly to me, like a dress, and it had this baggy trouser part you had to tie really tight to avoid the embarrassment of them falling down. My dad never wore it, so I didn't see why I had to. Also, it makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, that people assume I represent something genuinely Indian when I wear it, because that's not how I feel.
HP: Empty your mind. (Laughter) Be formless, shapeless, like water. Now you put water into a cup. It becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. Put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend. (Applause)
HP: A few years ago, in order to make this video for my artwork, I shaved off all my hair so that I could grow it back as my father had it when he first emigrated from India to the U.K. in the 1960s. He had a side parting and a neat mustache.
But then very quickly, I started to underestimate my mustache growing ability, and it got way too big. It didn't look Indian anymore. Instead, people from across the road, they would shout things like --
So it's not just my father that I've imitated. A few years ago I went to China for a few months, and I couldn't speak Chinese, and this frustrated me, so I wrote about this and had it translated into Chinese, and then I learned this by heart, like music, I guess.
YR: This phrase is now etched into my mind clearer than the pin number to my bank card, so I can pretend I speak Chinese fluently. When I had learned this phrase, I had an artist over there hear me out to see how accurate it sounded.
HP: Okay. So this imitation business does come with risk. It doesn't always go as you plan it, even with a talented translator. But I am going to stick with it, because contrary to what we might usually assume, imitating somebody can reveal something unique. So every time I fail to become more like my father, I become more like myself. Every time I fail to become Bruce Lee, I become more authentically me.
This is my art. I strive for authenticity, even if it comes in a shape that we might not usually expect. It's only recently that I've started to understand that I didn't learn to sit like this through being Indian. I learned this from Spider-Man.
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