Zadie Xa, The Word for Water is Whale, 2021, HD video 21 min 18 sec, Sound mix by Joe Namy, Voice actors: Samantha Lawson, Jemma Paek, Tiffany Chan, Daniella Valz Gen. Vocal experts from Bruce Lee’s 1971 interview with Pierre Berton, Captions by Matchbox Cine. Co-commissioned by the 13th Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai, and the Whitechapel Gallery, London.

The Word for Water is Whale explores the interconnectedness of memory, travel and knowledge transmission via deep listening, required to further understand our world and those with whom we share it. How can different forms of knowledge production, which may once have been widespread, be adapted back into the way we interface with one another? What information – spiritual, technological or otherwise – happens at a cellular level as sonic waves ebb and flow across water? And finally, what are the unearthed narratives and secrets that can be gleaned from the rumbling frequencies of the marine world?  

About Zadie Xa

Zadie Xa was born and raised in Vancouver on the unceded territories of Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, and is now based in London, UK. Her work is informed by her experiences within the Korean diaspora, as well as the environmental and cultural context of the Pacific Northwest. Her work often features garments, including cloaks and masks, used for live performance and within installation or moving image. Throughout her practice, Xa uses water and marine ecologies as metaphors for exploring the unknown, whilst also alluding to abstract notions of homeland. 

Xa’s practice is highly collaborative, and she has developed ongoing exchanges with dancers, musicians and actors. Since 2006, Xa has worked closely with artist Benito Mayor Vallejo. Together they have staged live performance, moving image, installations and painting.  

Zadie earned an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art in 2014 and a BFA at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 2007. 

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