Erie county smile : on exilic media and identity construction

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Tran Nguyen, Van N.
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Electronic thesis
Electronic arts
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This dissertation text is intended to provide the historical background and theoretical framing for my doctoral video project, ERIE COUNTY SMILE (2021) and to contextualize the theory and practices that led to the project’s completion. The video project ERIE COUNTY SMILE (running time 27:52, 2021), or ECS, is a short film about the fantasies of a girl working at her family’s nail salon. It is a parody of a Vietnamese-language variety show called Paris By Night (PBN). In ECS, I utilize performance techniques such as humor, satire, parody, and reenactment to stage interventions about PBN. I have selected PBN as a case study because of its notoriety within the Vietnamese community living abroad. I performed as every character within the narrative video (ECS) and corresponding sets via digital imaging and animation with the help of collaborators working remotely. ECS was created entirely during the global COVID-19 pandemic while under lockdown. In this textual analysis of my practice-based project and research, I will examine: 1) the process of collaboration in a remote setting during the historic 2020 pandemic; 2) the process of producing ECS, from “failures” of early planning to its current iteration; and 3) the source material of PBN, which serves as an impressive cultural media archive. These ideas are laid out in the form of thematic chapters with supporting images. To conduct my exploration, I ground my research approaches, or methodologies, in ethnography and media archive analysis. I used autoethnographic research—an introspective tool that transforms private, insider experience into public, apparent knowledge. I use this method not as a way to expose the intimacies of lived cultural knowledge, but as a way to find a commonality between intimacies that exist in small, mutually isolated cultural pockets usually referred to as a diaspora.
August 2021
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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