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The Instant Expat: Brettsinclair’s “How I Became An American”

Hugo Brettsinclair, a French expat to the U.S., tells his story on You Tube in two-minute increments. A year ago, I stumbled upon “Clean”, which recounts the making of a fateful passport picture.

Hugo and I started a long distance conversation (he lives in WA), which eventually inspired me to ask him for my very own portrait (the profile picture you now see on this blog). A particularity of Hugo’s work is to be bilingual. The text appearing on the screen is in English, whereas the narration is in French. A friend with a great voice then re-records the two minute story in English. The French version of “Clean” can be seen here. Here is a quick tour:

L’Origine du monde / The Origin of the World is a weird take on Gustave Courbet’s scandalous painting where Brettsinclair sees a shortcut for his struggles with sex, fiction writing, and bilingualism. Don’t ask. I tried.

Nique tes arbres / Fuck the trees tells the story of Brettsinclair’s grandfather and why you should never trust your roots for helping you learn how to walk.

Faux Départ / Late At Your Own Break Up shows how a seemingly clean break fails miserably from lack of follow-through. Interestingly, this particular story is not recorded in English by the girl with the nice voice.

I offer Brettsinclair’s work as is: a cross between the naive poetry of Georges Meliès and the freudian anguish that best depicts the mind of an expat. In the end, we don’t even know how Brettsinclair became an American, because he simply stopped posting his two-minute confessions. Maybe he found a real job, maybe he moved back home. Having lost contact for some time. I tried to get back in touch with him about this post. He hasn’t replied to my emails.


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