Social artist Sun Chang: "Mothering is a verb, an intention"

Sun Chang, Sister-Hood, 2023. Courtesy M•Others

After graduating from art schools in Wuhan and London, Sun Chang (1994) attended 'The Dirty Art Appartment' course at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam from 2017-2019. Rather than training artists to practise a craft, it invites them to research our everyday social dynamics and the meanings we assign to social roles. Chang therefore describes herself as a 'community-based and social artist'. In 2020, she initiated to M•Others (2020-present), an exploration of what motherhood means through interviews, discussions and workshops. In doing so, the artist builds a community that anyone can join. At 'Prospects' at Art Rotterdam, she gives insight into her process and shows a recent collaborative artwork.

The idea for the to M•Others project (2020-present) emerged during the covid pandemic. Chang shares: “Lockdown made another thing apparent: much of the work around the house is done by women. This is no news, but it made clear that even when everyone is at home, most chores still end up on the plates of women. Gender plays a role in the home. This was the starting point of my project to M•Others, in which I examine M(other)ing: mothering, taking care of another, the home, and oneself. I started examining motherhood as an action, not as a state of being. In the end motherhood, the act of mothering, is a sort of taking care of one another that can be performed by anyone, regardless of gender identity.” The artist thus uses a broad definition of motherhood, as ‘caring for another’, to include fathers, people without children and queers.

M•Other's Day: Publication Launch, Amsterdam-Bijlmer, 2021, photo courtesy by Anna Lenartowska

Through dinners, letters, pamphlets, interviews, discussions and collective design workshops, Chang explores what motherhood entails. One example is Sisther-Hood (2023), a large canvas designed with mothers from the Bijlmer and cardboard tags written by girls from womxn's Mill neighbourhood. This textile work acts as a manifesto with the words 'I am more because we are more'. The 'I' and 'we' are connected like veins of life. In the spirit of: 'another's beauty and strength does not mean the absence of your own.' This project was organised during International Women's Day together with Buurtzus. The children and adults reflected on their female role models and women/girl power in others and themselves. In addition, participants created spirit masks, inspired by a hybrid creature from Greek mythology, to represent symbols of domesticity and threats towards women.

M•Other's Day: The Galaxy of Care, Amsterdam-Molenwijk, 2023, photo courtesy by Anna Lenartowska

At Prospects, the artist shows this 3-metre-long cloth with an ant-shaped anthill, in response to the question of which animal best represents motherhood. According to Chang, the ant is like a cloak that radiates the strength and connection of its creators. In times when we risk losing sight of connection, Chang uses her artistry to connect people of diverse cultural backgrounds and ages. In her words, "In the end, everyone can be a mother, regardless of gender or sex. M(other)ing [ed. mothering] is a verb, an intention." As such, her art practices contribute to emancipation, resilience and self-awareness.

Sun Chang (1994) is a social artist, independent publisher and educational designer based in Amsterdam. From 2012 to 2019, she pursued art studies in Wuhan, Beijing, New York, London and Amsterdam. Chang is artistic director of to M-Others and co-founder of Lost Dad Publishing. She was granted several residencies, including from Guangdong Times Museum (2022-2023), Witte Rook (2022) and CBK Zuidoost (2021).

Between 2022-2023, Chang received talent support from the Mondriaan Fund. Therefore, she is one of the participating artists of the 'Prospects' exhibition at Art Rotterdam.

Written by Pienk de Gaay Fortman

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