Published by Rooftop Institute 出版社：天台塾 /
Ysabelle Cheung /
There is a backwater thought that once an artist (usually female, according to patriarchal hierarchies) bears children, they become somewhat infertile in their creative practices. “After I gave birth, some people apparently thought that I had retired to take care of my child,” Wong Wai Yin once stated in an article. In truth, she had only taken a five-year hiatus from traditional exhibition-making. Then, in 2016, she produced Without Trying, a monumental solo exhibition at Spring Workshop that revealed her engagements in entirely new creative practices as a result of motherhood: learning French, dog training, spiritual response therapy and playing the ukulele.
This peeling away from the art world circuit and its capitalist expectations can be liberating, a fact that Wong and 48 other Hong Kong-based artist-parents reveal in Event Scores by Artists-Parents. Published by Rooftop Institute and grouped into six chapters, the contributions document in writing and photographs the co-learning experiences that occur daily between artists and their children, reframed playfully as highly experimental “event scores” or “instructional art”. Three introductory notes by Law Yuk Mui, Hui Po Keung and Stella Fong further identify the book’s main themes: empathy, play and how to facilitate ludic activity at home during a pandemic.
Words that seldom appear in art statements, such as “fun”, “happy”, “exciting” and “loves”, populate these contributions. In expressing the vocabularies of their children, these artists resist the emotionless rigour of academic text, and recall the primal, instinctive joys of artmaking and education. The re-enactment of famous buildings becomes “performance art” to Clara Cheung and her daughter. Kwan Sheung Chi reveals that his son Man gets nervous when following instructions, so he devised a game in which he and Man would run a race. The race was recorded for the work Before the End: Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959) (2017), shown at the artist’s solo exhibition at Edouard Malingue Gallery in 2017. At the opening, Kwan recalls, Man happily realised that he had in fact helped his father complete the work. “Yes, thank you,” Kwan replied.
Other similar tender moments of mutual understanding and awareness, with parent and child taking turns to teach and experiment, are standouts. Instead of punishing his son for kicking his classmates, Zunzi draws him a comic strip to demonstrate the moral repercussions of such behaviour. Ink artist Chui Pui Chee shows his daughter how to paint, and then observes her interest in brush-washing water over the watercolours; she then declares, “Dad, I teach you to paint!” In Dance With Her, Tang Kwok Hin describes how to teach the language of performance to a child: “Make faces where there are reflections, she will discover what she looks like and then act with herself; when she observes you, you stretch your limbs and she starts to spread her arms like open wings.” In this way, he continues, a child may begin to experiment with this language of movement autonomously. “When the time comes, let your child guide you.” In these fluid role reversals – teaching, experimenting – the possibilities of creation are numerous.
In her introductory note, Stella Fong, who leads the M+ learning and interpretation team, states that artists “may not be the best students, but they are often the best learners”. By learning how to be parents, artists are perhaps also learning more about praxis; even feeding times can be performances, as Kurt Chan notes in The Story of Eating. “A meal with a kid, half done or reluctant to finish; arrange the uneaten food on the container like a ‘picture’. Tell a story, eat a story, eat up the rest of the meal.” Yim Sui Fong, in “learning the meaning of crying every day”, composed an adaptable vocal score based on breastfeeding times and her lamentations. By inhabiting the daily spaces of family, Event Scores by Artists-Parents makes room for every artist’s most important medium: play.