School in Common with Jing Y. Ng, Song Yi, and Zoénie Liwen Deng

1 September 2019, 15:00–17:30 / Casco HQ

How does art for and of commoning operate in a country like China where economic and social inequality and class segregation deepen, while freedom of expression shrinks and direct activism is suppressed?

School in Common, a new name for Casco’s Study Meetings, opens its autumn program with two Chinese artists and writers, Jing Y. Ng and Song Yi. The session is organized by Amsterdam-based researcher, curator, and poet Zoénie Liwen Deng, whose PhD at University of Amsterdam – “The Non-oppositional Criticalities of Contemporary Socially Engaged Art in Urbanising China” – echoes the two artists’ practices. As Deng articulates, the artistic practices of Ng and Yi exercise “sharp pertinence and soft acuteness” for critical and collaborative practices, especially around issues of (gendered) labor and socio-economic inequality, while evading censorship and suppression by the Chinese authorities.

Song Yi currently co-directs a crucial independent art platform in Beijing, The Institute of Provocation, and co-founded Migrant Workers’ Video Collective, an activist group that consists of artists, workers, and part-time filmmakers. The collective’s work conveys the reality of labor and class stratification in China with the exploration of “the right to art and the right to image” as part of commoning practices. Jing Y. Ng’s artistic practice and writing works with the idea of socialist realism, attempting to subvert the key mechanics of this historically complex genre. Together with care laborers in the arts and beyond, Ng also initiated an ongoing collaborative writing project called Writing • Mothers that works for “the right to write” from a critical feminist perspective. 

At this School in Common session, we have the opportunity to watch two video works. Jing Y. Ng’s Solutions (2018) is an intimate documentary about five mothers in Guangzhou who speak about their affective intertwinement with art, and how it works at the micro- and macropolitical scale within the family and society. Migrant Workers’ Video Collective’s Solidarity (2018) is a compilation of several staged or documentary films on usual and unusual labor moments and struggles in China. The screening is followed by a conversation between Ng, Yi, and Deng, moderated by Binna Choi, director at Casco Art Institute.


This School in Common session is organized along the “Commonist Aesthetics” study line on art and the commons at Casco Art Institute and in conjunction with the final symposium of ChinaCreative at University of Amsterdam, which runs from 29 to 31 August 2019. ChinaCreative is the European Research Council–funded research project at University of Amsterdam on criticality, governmentality, and forms of creativity in China, which Zoénie Liwen Deng’s PhD is part of and which supported the travels to the Netherlands by the artists.

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