[Mending Years, 2023.06.28-07.12, Gallery L0, JCCAC] The recollections of family members are too fragmentary for Winsome Wong to piece together wholesome understanding of her father, grandparents and the times they struggled through in the 1960s-80s, when she was not yet born. She turned the blank spaces into a journey of research and conversations, and the quest for photographic truths. 出生於祖父母和父輩掙扎成長之後的黃慧心，無法從他們口中得知1960-80年代的他們和香港的實際存在。如何填補這個空白？於是她先由他們以前工作的地方開始，然後透過與爺爺翻看在他和嫲嫲家中家庭照片…。感謝照片和照相機的存在。
照片的空白 Blanks in the Pictures
我不太知道可以如何填補這個關於嫲嫲的過往的空白。父親和爺爺能夠描述得最清楚的好像就是她工作的地方 – 位於鳳凰村、慈雲山、新蒲崗那一帶，好像離我成長的地方很近卻對我來說有點陌生。於是我想先由走一遍有關爺爺嫲嫲以前工作的地方開始，然後透過與爺爺翻看在他和嫲嫲家中的家庭照片，看看還可以填補甚麼關於他們的空白，而無可避免的空白又是甚麼。
When I was a kid, my family lived in Diamond Hill with my grandparents. Grandpa would always comb his hair neat and nice, and would wear shirts and trousers to work in the barber shop located in San Po Kong. Ever since my grandma had a stroke, her physical mobility was limited. And as she and our family seldom mention anything about her work, I seemed to have taken it for granted that she had always been a housewife. It wasn't until I asked recently that I found out that she had actually worked in factories and had brought plastic flowers to assemble at home. I was surprised that I never knew about this piece of her past even though my grandma often talked to me. Meanwhile, my father and grandpa could only describe the nature of her work, why she changed jobs, where she worked and so on without a lot of details. Grandma passed away a few years ago, leaving behind a certain void in her past. On the contrary, grandpa, now in his nineties and retired for many years, still combs his hair neatly and wears trousers and shirts, as if he’s still keeping every trace of his profession. And even though he hears less well now, I could still chat with him.
I’m not sure how to fill in the void about my grandma's past, but my father and grandpa are the most clear when it comes to the locations where grandma worked - Fung Wong New Village, Tsz Wan Shan, San Po Kong and more – all near where I grew up yet seem unfamiliar to me. Thus, I would start by going through the places where my grandparents used to work, and then look through the family photos at my grandparents' house with my grandpa to see what else I can fill in regarding the void about them, and meanwhile what is the inevitable void lying there.
My thoughts while installing this work and afterwards… 佈展和展出後的回顧
I thought I knew my Grandma well. But since she departed, I was only able to fill in the many blanks in my memory through what her survivors could recall. Bit by bit as she became older, Grandma’s own recollection of memory became likely deviations. Some blanks are simply permanent absences, not to be filled by anyone’s memory. But as I repeatedly finger through photos that show her looks and expressions from different periods of her life, her very presence returns to seem to make up what words cannot express. These are also photos she used to finger through, but left untouched after she passed away. I also regret how I have failed to pay attention to what she was looking at, which could have struck many more conversations between us.
As I look at these photos one by one, I feel truly grateful to my uncle who was the first person to get their family a camera, which was why many of their looks had been preserved. Meanwhile, through the looks of the subjects in the photos taken by him, I could also imagine what kind of a person he was.
I have placed a piece of my father’s writing on a desk in the show. Not writing for many years, he agreed to write about what he recalled of the period [1960s-70s] (after some not so successful attempt of mine to ask him to recall verbally). When I was a kid, I often wished to find myself in his published or draft writings; never have I thought, as an adult, that I would be able to enter his world again through his writings. Indeed, he’s brought to life what the adults were like when he was a kid, and those pasts that my grandparents never mentioned, and I seem to have gained a better understanding of how Father got to become the person that I now know.
I have dreamt about Grandma these days, and cherish each meeting of this kind. Yet every “meeting” is marked by the experience of another farewell. After all, I consider it great blissfulness to be able to see the smile she had.
Background to the making of Blanks in the Pictures 《照片的空白》的創作背景及緣由
1) Map about the mobility of my grandparents in 1960s-1980s
My grandmother seldom talks about her memory as part time factory labor, only after she passed away that I knew about it even though we do talk a lot before she passed away. From what my father and grandfather said, she didn’t work for a long time since some factories moved away from the neighborhood. And that my grandfather and grandmother preferred that she could stay home to look after the children. Since in the neighborhood of Tsz Wan Shan, there are a lot of drug related issues and crime. Meanwhile, my father and grandfather mentioned that she has worked in small scale family-run factories around San Po Kong and Fung Wong Estate, which is near their home in the public housing estate in Tsz Wan Shan at that time. On the other hand, my grandfather has worked as a barber for a long time, he has worked in places like Shek Kip Mei, Sham Shui Po, Wan Chai, and San Po Kong. When I was still a kid, I still remember that he works in an old building in San Po Kong.
This part would work as a brief introduction to people of the spaces my grandparents would walk pass, and how these places are no longer there with urban development, through a visual map combining graphics and photos.
2) A reorganization of family portraits
Even though my grandfather is already 94 years old, he still has a very neat hairstyle and always wears shirts and trousers. When going through the family portraits since 1950s (when my grandparents are still in China), I realized that my grandfather has always been dressing in this western way with similar neat hairstyle, while my grandmother always wears the chinese style flowery shirts. I would like to reorganize their photos showing the difference in their style of dressing until the times that I grew up and took portraits for them, this difference still remains. My grandfather said as a barber, he has to have decent suit and shirt at the workplace in order not to be looked down at. I guess this is where his habit of hairstyle and dressing up came from. This would also be a continuation of a work I made in 2018, which is about the portrait of my grandparents. On the other hand, my grandfather is the one who cuts my father and his two brothers hair, and his profession could be seen in their student photos, so their photos would also be included. He also but my brother’s hair and my hair too.
3) A video of my conversations with my grandmother
In a previous video work of mine made in 2016 and modified in 2019, I’ve combined different conversations with my grandmother, where these conversations could be tedious, my grandmother’s thoughts and what she values when she recall memories could be seen.The audio is mainly composed of my grandmother’s voice while the visual is my grandfather doing housework at the kitchen and toilet. I think somehow this summarized the difference in their mobility, as my grandmother is paralyzed, my grandfather is always the one who goes around while my grandmother is always the storyteller. But now my grandmother has passed away for more than 4 years, my grandfather has started to talk a bit more while his mobility isn’t as flexible as before.
About the Artist 有關創作人
WINSOME WONG mainly works on videography and the sculpting of images. Through moving along with her camera, composing and sculpting the texture and rhythm of images, she believes that art helps guiding her to step into daily life to make better sense of it. Most of her works are, therefore, draw from her daily life and people around her, turning her works into documented and re-invented evidence of her mobility against different cultural contexts, from Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines to Hong Kong. She also devotes herself to contemplate the legitimacy of images and her artworks and where the authority lies: to her it is obvious that she feels obliged to credit the sources of her works to people around her. Is she just an “agent” or “co-creator” of the works? She is a member of the Floating Projects Collective.