A Tale of Two Children

I was riding my bike through a random industrial part of town when I stumbled upon this (click then click to enlarge):
I was understandably puzzled. It turns out that this is a piece of public art by none other than famous Canadian artist Ken Lum, who happens to be the guy who taught the lecture portion of Visual Art 182 when I took it back in 2003. On the first day of class he introduced himself as Ken Lum, explained how he was a practicing artist, and deadpanned, “So if you’ve ever wondered what a real artist looks like, here you go. Sorry to disappoint.” His class was the first place I ever heard about the Gaze.

This piece is called “A Tale of Two Children.” It was commissioned by the city and sponsored by Grosvenor, a huge international property development and investment group. Most accounts claim that the piece references his experiences of growing up in a somewhat ghettoized Chinese-Canadian community; according to Robin Laurence of the Georgia Straight,

[I]t’s not clear what Lum is trying to tell us about language and culture as they affect parenting styles and expectations. There’s a provocative element in much of his work that does not find easy resolution in the mind of the viewer.

For me, it’s ambiguous message and unorthodox location made it more of a treat, especially considering the serendipity of its discovery.

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