談「縫補歲月」,冀「歷史毋忘」On the Mending Years, and How to Fill in the Gaps of History

談「縫補歲月」,冀「歷史毋忘」On the Mending Years, and How to Fill in the Gaps of History

LAI Wai-leung 黎偉亮

LAI Wai-leung 黎偉亮

發表於: 29 Jul 2023

How to ensure history won't be forgotten? FP writer Wai-leung Lai turns to the concrete contribution of an object-based approach in installation art – his follow-up on his last piece on the show “Mending Years” (2023.06.28-07.12, 5-person group show at JCCAC), to assert the place of the non-expert in completing an art event as a form of social commemoration. 據點作者黎偉亮要求「歷史毋忘」要具體,也許在以「物」為軸的場域特定展覽《縫補歲月》中,他找到了裝置藝術所盛載的一點貢獻。(Editor's notes)

**feature image主體照: Evans Chan's Sewing Breasts (left), Shan Luk's Siu Fung Sin (right above), and Linda Lai's Domestic Moonlighting (right below) at “Mending Years” (courtesy of Elaine Wong, Winsome Wong, Shan Luk and Evans Chan)


談「縫補歲月」,冀「歷史毋忘」| 黎偉亮

揭開黑色布幔,走進暗黑空間。牆上是一爿窗框的投影,彷似動也不動,耳伴是陣陣柔和的音樂,聽不出是誰的創作,甚至不肯定這是否《冷風中 我在》的背景音樂,但寧謐的環境還是令我在那影像前佇立了良久,眼觀耳聽帶動思潮,不期然思考藝術家的意圖:聲音流轉,代表著時間游移,時間既然流動不斷,那麼,冷硬而凝止的窗框影像,是否象徵著身心在生活過程的困頓?又或是表達著現代人情感上的孤獨冷清?答案並不重要,我也不打算翻查場刊找說明。我認識的Elaine是一個心思柔細的人,但單憑這主觀印象推斷她的創作意圖,我想並不公允,重點是作品賦予我思想的空間,體會那直接來自胸臆間的感受,投入了創作者的世界,至於作品帶出的訊息,就容觀者自行領悟。


Elaine Wong's I'm Here, in the Cold Wing 黃淑賢的《冷風中 我在》清冷環境




Winsome Wong's family photos in her Blanks in the Pictures 黃慧心的《照片的空白》中其中一些處理過的家庭照。


陸珊及陳耀成導演的作品,不約而同以縫紉機為主角裝置。這些以人力驅動的「衣車」,早已被新科技淘汰,今天看來是完完全全的「古董」了,但在那上世紀六、七十年代,它們卻是無數貧窮家庭主婦的謀生工具。陸珊在「縫補歲月」展覽導賞時,提到外婆在舊李鄭屋邨家中縫製小鳳仙裝,打響了名堂,自己在耳濡目染下亦愛上了這門手藝,當說起展覽中她的作品《小鳳仙》的另一裝置元素,即那件她親手縫製的小鳳仙裝時,她臉上滿是喜悅和驕傲。陳耀成導演的媽媽則是從工廠接下訂單為胸罩加工,作品主體是一串被切去一個胸杯的胸罩,圍繞著一臺銹跡斑駁的縫紉機,延伸部分是以天花板垂下的肚兜作一投射螢幕,穿插的影像是那年代的故人舊事和名伶芳艷芬的「一枝紅艷露凝香」。陳導演告訴我他的母親是死於乳腺癌的,《縫補乳房》是他對往事的回憶也是對母親的哀悼。人人都說那是個艱難的年代,普遍「多孩」的家庭,生活總是捉襟見肘,忙於家務和照顧小孩之餘,主婦們還拼命的工作幫補家計,勞動的痛苦是肯定的,但我想她們心中還是帶著慶幸:工作機會來了,勞累不要緊,心無旁騖地完成訂單, 縱使收入微薄,有一天過一天,心中存著卑微的願望,掙脫貧窮改善生活,並無時無刻地盼望著孩子的長大。這不是我的空想,因為童年時我家裏也放置著一臺「衣車」,媽媽也曾經無日無夜地縫製著「公仔」衫,而最終也是毫無怨言的把她的一群孩子「湊」大了。


On-site views of artist Shan Luk's installation Siu Fung Sin 陸珊的場域特定裝置《小鳳仙》的幾個片段。









**English translation by Linda Lai

On the Mending Years, and How to Fill in the Gaps of History | Wai-leung Lai


Lift the black veil and walk into the dark space. On the wall is a projection of a window frame, motionless it seems, and bursts of soft music fills the room. I can’t tell whose music it is, and I’m not even sure if it’s the background music of I Am Here, in the Cold Wind. Rather, the quiet environment makes me stand still in front of the image for a long time. Watching and listening evoke streams of thoughts. I can’t help wondering what the artist's intention is: the flow of sound is the movement of time. Time flows continuously, but what about the cold and frozen image of the window? Does it symbolize the exhaustion of the body and mind in the process of life? Or does it express the isolation and loneliness of the contemporary individual? The answer is not important, and I'm not going to look through the program notes for clarification. The Elaine that I know is a person of soft and refined thoughts, but I don’t think it’s fair to infer her creative intentions based on this subjective impression of mine. The point is that the work gives me the space to think, to experience the feelings that bounce off my chest, and to delve into someone’s world of creation. As for the message brought out by the work, it is up to the viewer how to make sense of it.


Winsome Wong's work Blanks in the Picture is a different form of expression. The videos and photos are the life records of her father and his own parents. In the old pictures, males are always in white shirts and trousers, their hair neatly combed, and in a perfect upright posture, sitting or standing, the style of the older generation, I suppose. Winsome once told me about her grandfather, a typical working-class man who supported himself and his family by cutting hair for others. Now he is over ninety years old and his physical condition frail and deteriorating. Looking at those yellowed photos, I naturally think of my own mother who is also of the same age and has had similar experiences, also struggling to walk the last journey of life. What weighty thoughts.


Winsome Wong' found her father's family photo, showing himself, his siblings and their parents. 黃慧心父親兒時的家庭照。


Coincidentally, both the works by Shan Luk and film director Evans Chan feature a sewing machine as the anchoring object of their installation. These human-powered "machines" have long since been eliminated by new technology, and today they seem to be completely "antiques" of a kind -- although back then in the 1970s, they were many housewives' tool to livelihood in poor families. When Shan Luk gave a guided tour of the exhibition “Mending Years,” she mentioned that her grandmother hand-made siu fung sin (little phoenix dresses) at the Li Cheng Uk public housing estate and was well known in the area for her exquisite skills. Under her grandmother’s influence, Luk also fell in love with this craft. She proudly and joyfully introduced the other main element of her installation Siu Fung Sin -- a little phoenix dress she sewed by herself. Evan Chan’s mother took orders from a factory to process bras back in the 1970s. The main body of his work is a series of bras with a cup cut off, surrounding a rusty sewing machine; an extension of these key elements is a moving image sequence projected onto a string of chest-covers (old-style Chinese bras) hanging from the ceiling. The interspersed images are the stories of people of his mother’s generation and the famous actress Fong Yim-fun with her opera song “A dewy, fragrant stem of red radiance.” Director Chan told me that his mother died of breast cancer, and Sewing Breasts is a tribute to his mother. It was a time said to be difficult -- families generally with many children constantly struggling to survive. Apart from busying themselves with housework and child care, these keepers of the household also worked desperately to help to make ends meet. The pain of labor is certain, but I suppose they might have felt lucky to find extra means. When work opportunities came, it wouldn’t matter if they were already exhausted, as they would complete any “orders” with highest efficacies. This is no fantasy of mine: when I was a child, there was also a sewing machine at home, which my mother used to sew clothing for "dolls" by factory orders. Day and night she worked, and finally put her group of children together, not a single word of complaint.


Site views of Evans Chan's first time installation to remember his mother's past hardship. 導演陳耀成的首次裝置展出,紀念當年勤勞的母親。


Those were the hard days and like an ocean away, and how does it taste like when recalled? In any case, these women are a great bunch in society.


Artist Linda Lai's 91-year-old mother visited her work to recall her younger days of making imitation jewelry with plastic beads in the 1960s. 藝術家黎肖嫻的九十一歲母親來訪,記憶上世紀六十年代穿珠子做塑膠首飾的補貼生涯。


The exhibition “Mending Years” portrays a specific moment of history. The group of five artists took the approach of assembling physical objects that have existed as the creative axis to reproduce the past not only as aura, but also as myriads of events through old photos, sewing machines, bras, a folk outfit (siu fung sin dress) and, as in the case of Domestic Moonlighting (Linda C.H. Lai), bamboo poles for carrying loads, scales, towel wraps, plastic beads and more, leading to an alternative view of productivity. These everyday objects assert their presence beyond symbolic resonance. They not only overcome the distance of time, but also make vague memories solid and distinct. “History” stands in the exhibition gallery as relics -- yet their presence silently tells stories about themselves and their owners. Sharing the same space, the visitor is invited to immerse in a forgotten piece of history through the interaction of vision, sound and objects, supplemented by texts.


The past is a long time, and its protagonists are all sojourners. Many of them have passed away, and those still in their journey would not be able, or willing, to offer us any interpretation. I suppose most of them feel that their past deeds are insignificant and not worth mentioning. But as we add up what they have done, the concrete things they actually accomplished form the solid ground of society on which we stand, generation after generation. Let’s say the merits and demerits of historical figures are always arguable. But the gaps in history must be filled, and I gather that artists are bound to the task of documentation as they create artistically. Otherwise, "history should never be forgotten" will remain empty words. //


Related readings

Related events

FP's Winsome Wong and Linda Lai in "Mending Years" -- Gallery L0, JCCAC, until 12 July 「縫補歲月」:據點黎肖嫻和黃慧心與三位創作者的聯展
FP's Winsome Wong and Linda Lai in "Mending Years" -- Gallery L0, JCCAC, until 12 July 「縫補歲月」:據點黎肖嫻和黃慧心與三位創作者的聯展
Floating Projects Collective 2023