Quotidian Chinese > Installation / Performance / Song Dong’s Communal Courtyard: In-Gallery Artist Residency > Art Gallery of Ontario > Toronto > June 29 - July 16th 2016
Quotidian Chinese is a series of performances depicting the everyday practices of older Chinese-Canadians carried out in the centre of Beijing artist Song Dong's Communal Courtyard at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Each living portrait is a fragment of quotidian Chinese rituals practiced by an older generation Chinese immigrants that, like Song Dong's hutong-courtyards, have become antiquated to their Canadian born children. Quotidian Chinese is a collaboration with Ming Chau Vong (my mother), Jennifer Vong (my sister), and University Settlment (local Chinatown senior residents), who will enact the following performances:
Take-Home-Factory-Work: A central performance of the series, Take-Home-Factory-Work portrays the tedious labour of a mother and daughter assembling piecework over a sewing machine. Before the turn to offshore labour, many Chinese immigrant and refugee women during the 1980s and 1990s took low paying jobs as garment factory workers. Piecework was often taken home to be completed the next day, taking up a significant portion of family life. The incessent work required the help of the entire family and included the labour of children. The sound of the sewing machine and the fatigue of repetitive work resonates throughout my childhood memory, often eliciting feelings of guilt and discontent towards the exploited labour of refugees.
Masters of Mah-jong: equivalent to the western poker card game, Mah-jong is a popular pastime where players gamble small amounts of money. The sound of Mah-jong tiles clicking against each other and conversations that emerge are part of the mise-en-scene of Chinese social life. Over the course of week, local Chinese seniors will compete for the title of 'AGO's Master of Mah-Jong'.
Wontons and Warnings: Making wontons, a relatively cheap but time-consuming meal to make, was time spent between mother and daughter—often a time for mothers to lecture their children. The language barriers between immigrant parents and their English speaking Canadian-born children, componded by a culture of stoicism, made it difficult for children to converse dialogically or engage in meaningful conversations. In this performance, Jennifer Vong and Ming Chau Vong, (mother and daughter) make dumplings out of pages ripped from English dictionaries. Participants are invited to choose a word in the English dictionary, while mother and daughter attempt to translate each definition into Chinese using their grasp of a Cantonese-English pidgin.
A Game of Chinese Chess and Exercise: Two Chinese seniors engage in a long and contemplative game of Chinese Chess after a round of morning Tai Chi exercises.
Each performances is accompanied by the omnipresent sound of the Chinese radio program playing in the background.
BY SHELLIE ZHANG // Art Asia Pacific, 2016. Web.