November 5, 2015

11/4/15 – Many Hands Make Heavy Work

Artist: Tsz Yan Ng (aka Tn)

Location: Russell St. Deli


TN – Coffee (cream), Ham, mushroom & cheddar cheese special sandwich

SRS – Coffee (black), Dinty Moore

It’s always nice to get a moment to talk to Tn, and it’s also rare, because she is an astonishingly busy person. Most recently, she made room within her teaching career at U of M to visit Shantou, China, and the garment manufacturing facility for which she is the architect of record. Tn has has a longstanding relationship with the company that owns this factory–her father managed the cutting floor–and the invisible labor of the workers there, that directly contributes to the consumer goods that surround us in America, is a kind of muse for her work over the last several years. Some of that work is currently on display, in a show called The Visibility of Labor, at 9338 Campau, and I really encourage you to take a look, or attend Tn’s upcoming artist talk.

We talked a lot about stress and perfectionism. Both of us happen to be balancing a challenging combination at the moment, of career-work/art-work/life-work. Lots of work. Something I’ve noticed about women my age, especially ones who aren’t spending their time producing rugrats, is that we are super freaking busy doing a lot of other stuff for ourselves. I guess it stands to reason that one of the main grounds for people pairing up in the long terms is to make families together, but it’s sort of sobering to me to realize that men can be doing all this stuff from the comfortable confines of a supportive relationship…women, not as much.

You want to talk about invisible labor? Domestic labor, and especially childrearing, is just one big, unpaid, disproportionately female time-suck. I have nothing but admiration for women who can see the writing on the wall, and decide that, all things being equal, they’d like to spend the most productive years of their life doing something besides wiping tiny butts and offering unconditional positive regard to chaotic little dictators. There is only one chaotic little dictator in my life, and it is me. It is inspiring to me to see a woman in charge of her teaching, her artmaking, and the challenging task of building life infrastructure to suit her existence–and believe me, in charge still includes a degree of stress and chaos that might sometimes feel like failure, when you’re stuck in it, but is actually just a sign of progress. It gives me hope for future lunch dates with someone who isn’t stopping every 30 seconds to ask her little angel to quit mashing banana into its own, angelic hair.

Anyway, Tn spends a lot of her art-time raising the visibility of the unseen hands that shape the objects that surround us daily. It seems only fair that I do a little to raise her visibility, for all the hard work she puts in.

The Visibility of Labor will remain on display at 9338 Campau through the artist’s talk and gallery tour 6pm, Saturday November 14. More information can be found here.

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