ART – Maids Plant Toy Grenades for Art… But Were the Curators Ethical?

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu‘s series ‘Intervention‘ examines the working environments of Hong Kong’s Filipino domestic workers.

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100 people took part – placing a toy grenade in their employer’s home whilst they were away and photographing it.

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The project explores spacial intrusions and tensions between local families and their foreign helpers. Each participant was free to place the grenade anywhere within the home, though the artists insist the toy is neutral, does not carry implications of danger and that it is a game”.

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In an interview with Art Radar, the artists dodged ethical questions over whether they may be endangering their subjects or whether the employers involved may have felt violated if they spotted their home on display… They stated: “We had no intention to expose individuals. Like I said, the photos of the maids and the homes are not meant to be specifically meaningful; they only a representation and a portrayal of the mass.”

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Sun Yuan and Peng Yu both graduated from the Oil Painting Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.

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They have been collaborating since 2000 and remain two of China’s most controversial artists, renowned for working with extreme materials such as human fat tissue, live animals and baby cadavers. They deal with issues of perception, death, and the human condition.

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Domestic workers are not entitled to the universal minimum hourly wage in HK and cannot obtain permanent residency, no matter how many decades some have resided in the city.

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The ‘Intervention’ exhibition was a centre-piece at Art Basel last year.

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