Assimiland,” a visual and interactive special screening held in Manzanita Hall on Tuesday evening, presented viewers with an interpretive form of art and for some a reality to consider.
Professor Jeanine Minge, the screenings creator and coordinator, said the idea was to show processing as a method society requires of immigrants to partake in when becoming a part of American culture.
Participants were led through a simulation of a home, sectioned off with designated characters that represented various ideas and images in American Society.
Minge said the stage for the screening was set up into different sections that were a part of becoming processed for what she called ‘Jennys.’ Jennys gave those being processed acceptance and citizenship within the Assimiland compounds.
“We tried to show parts of how one is processed or in ‘Assimiland’ becomes a Jenny,” Minge said. “When you are from a different culture, especially coming here to be a part of our society, there’s this process we make people go through, immigration process.”
The actors who are students in Minge’s classes portrayed specific characters to help viewers understand the idea and purpose behind “Assimiland.” After waiting in an organized line monitored by police, participants were led through a caged area at which where they were checked in. Next, they were led into a living room at which a television screen discussing name change was playing while the smell of fresh baked cookies filled the air.
Adjacent to the living area was a kitchen where a woman was baking cookies. She portrayed both the mother and mediator role of the process. Paula Flisener, a CSUN graduate student who portrayed the mother, said her character’s role was to ensure each person was the same.
“In my role, I wanted to make everything OK so there wasn’t anyone with different color skin. We’re all the same, a melting pot of people and ideas,” Flisener said. “We wanted people to actually see what it’d be like to have to go through this process.”
Michelle Clevering, Minge’s student and an actress in “Assimiland,” said, “Once participants were welcomed, they start the process the same day. I was the leader. I checked people over to make sure if they qualified to be a Jenny. They then received a number with that name (part of our society).”
“If you fit in, then you can eventually be a better Jenny, men and women both Jenny, after they were assimilated,” Clevering said.
As the actors explained, the viewers were forced to assemble into lines and go through a process of simulation. As immigrants coming to America have to partake in a series of steps receive legal consent to live here, the screening tried to depict the process in interpretive art form.
Bernice Lee and Frances Zapanta symbolized parallel images and carbon copy products of society, but also rebellion and discontent with their new conditions and being a part of the process.
“We wore the same outfit, the same everything,” Lee said. “We tried to inform the audience they should be in our family (process).”
“Once you become a Jenny and receive a number, you become apart of us,” Lee said.
But Lee also explained they wrote the words ‘get out’ on their hands, which symbolized anarchy and secretly warned people to escape the process in question.
Minge said, “In this process, it shows when you try to do something you can’t, decisions are made for you, including name, grouping and rules.”
“Assimiland” was a display of ideology and political aspects of society. For the first time performed on campus, the special screening was at least beneficial and sympathetic to America’s immigrant community and what they often experience.
“Each group being processed had a different color (grouping),” Clevering said. “Eventually once process is complete, as our society tries to stand for, once everyone becomes a citizen, everyone becomes one, unifies. But we all know that’s not the case.”