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CULTURAL TIPS FOR NEW AMERICANS
2009 - 2012

To be a foreigner - one who is defined as "not from here" - often means unknowingly breaking rigid social and cultural rules.

Definitions of these social and cultural standards often say a lot about the "native" society. Outlining national identities has proven to be a subject of global political interest - the French government has put up a website forum advising what it means to be French; the Russian government has recently focused on defining "Russian Identity"; and here in the United States "what it means to be an American" is loudly and frequently discussed on national television.

As the proverbial "Land of Opportunity," the United States has always had a steady stream of new Americans.

For their Cultural Tips For New Americans project, Alina and Jeff Bliumis gathered advice to help recent arrivals assimilate and understand their new home. The artists took advice from published guides, public forums, streets questionnaires, social websites, and friends to create tips like:

"#1. Never refuse gum if an American offers it to use. Offering gum is a polite way to tell someone that they have bad breath. (Source: Jenny W. on Facebook)"

and

"#3. When two Americans are standing and talking to each other they stay at least 16 inches away from each other. (Source: Life in the USA, The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans by Elliot Essman)."

Alina and Jeff Bliumis have illustrated these tips and created posters to be placed on telephone kiosks on the Bowery and in Chinatown and Soho, from May 1 to May 28, 2011.

Accompanying the street-level posters, the artists produced a handbook of 8 tips.

Alina and Jeff engaged with the lower east side community and gathered one hundred and four new "cultural tips" from visitors, in exchange for their handbook on Saturday May 7, 2011 at NoLongerEmpty booth / Rivington and Chrystie Streets NYC, during the Festival of Ideas for the New City organized by the New Museum.

This performance/variable media art work was made possible, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Major support of the Franklin Furnace Fund was provided in 2010-11 by the Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation and Jerome Foundation. This project was also made possible by the Center Without Walls project of COJECO, funded by the UJA-Federation of NY and Genesis Philanthropy Group. This work is produced by No Longer Empty for the About Face exhibition, part of The Festival of Ideas for the New City, organized by The New Museum.

RELATED PROJECTS:

Cultural Tips takeaway at Toomer Labzda gallery, NYC, 2012. >>>

Cultural Tips For New Americans, sculptural series, 2009-2012. >>>

Cultural Tips For New Americans / handbook

Poster on telephone kiosk in Chinatown, NYC May 1 to May 28, 2011.

During The Festival of Ideas for the New City, May 7, 2011