Public Art Registry
A Tale of Two Children: A Work for Strathcona
Photo: Barbara Cole
A Tale of Two Children: A Work for Strathcona - photo by Ken Lum
A Tale of Two Children - photo by Barbara Cole
701 National Avenue
National Works Yard
NW corner at Malkin and Thornton Streets
Two-dimensional artwork
In place
City of Vancouver
Description of work
Two large aluminum frame panels are printed one side with an image and the other side with a text. One shows an unhappy caucasian boy and the text reads, "What an idiot! What an idiot you are! What an utterly useless idiot you are!". The other shows a smiling young Asian girl and an adult woman and the text reads, "You so smart. You make me proud you so smart. I so proud you so smart."
Artist statement


A Tale of Two Children demonstrates Lum’s artistic engagement with social issues of the everyday. Particularly, this work examines the upbringing of a child, not just the child as product of upbringing but, in terms of his or her relationship to others and the moments that influence the child. It is not only the child who is examined but the viewer, too, is drawn into the work and provoked to reflect on their own childhood.

The image that comprises the left half of the installation...undermines the idea that children are insulated or exempt from adult feelings of suffering. The boy is vulnerable, intimidated, and sad [and the] tone is harsh, negative, and angry, obviously detrimental to the boy’s self-worth.

The right-hand image text supports the idea that it is a mother who is speaking affectionately to her daughter. At some level, this may translate into pressure that is put on the child to succeed. Issues of race and culture are interwoven with concepts of child-rearing.

Lum’s A Tale of Two Children, through the two scenes, illustrates two different points on a large spectrum of parenting. Race, is one factor among many that influences child-rearing. Socio-economic and cultural backgrounds effect the relationship between parent and child as well. Lum conveys the multiplicity of parenting. The work is personal, local, and intimate while at the same time anonymous, global, and public. The complexity of the artwork mirrors the intricate multiplicity of childhood itself.

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