Father and Mother: Some pencils, pieces of paper, several chairs and desks

Father and Mother: Some pencils, pieces of paper, several chairs and desks


02.2015 – 12.2015
Martino-Katharineum-Schule, Braunschweig, Germany



Live performance Installation

When Yingmei Duan was performing at the Hayward Gallery in London in 2012, one man in the audience was very excited by a message about parents, which she had written on paper for her performance ‘Happy Yingmei’. He told Yingmei about a video concerning fast food that was being shown in English schools. After watching the video, the children began to eat less fast food than before. He thought it would be beneficial to bring the topic of parents into children’s schools, too.

Since then, Yingmei began developing ideas about working with children. In their youth, they tend to concentrate more on themselves – so Yingmei centres this performance art project on the theme of parents, prompting children to think more about their own parents. This furthermore gave the children an opportunity to learn about performance art.

Yingmei was kindly invited to exhibit at the Martino Katharineum school, for their 600-year anniversary in 2015, organised by Hanna Märgner-Bea. In addition to exhibiting past works in the school, she collaborated on a variety of art projects involving the schoolchildren for approximately 10 months.

From June 1st to June 5th, 2015, Yingmei conducted an interactive live performance installation activity titled “Some pencils, pieces of paper, several chairs and desks”. The space enabled students, parents, teachers, and others to meet and discuss the topic “Father and Mother” by participating in different performances. Participants were able to express their feelings about the subject through artistic media such as photography, music, writing, and painting.

On the first day of this project, few teachers and pupils came to see it because they were unaware of its existence. However, on the second day, a few classes in the school visited and started spreading the word.Soon, most of the school knew about the project.

When entering the open studio, after a brief introduction by Yingmei, the teachers allowed the pupils to choose an activity they would like to engage with. These activities took on diverse forms, in order to evoke their various memories and thoughts regarding their parents’ past, present, and future.

During this process, the pupils were happy to have the chance to express themselves and participate in discussions. Most of them were between 11 and 17 years old. Despite their different ages and levels of experience, the majority of them were sweet, straightforward, sincere, enthusiastic, and focused. 

Below are some examples of the activities given to the children: 

Write down the year, month and day your parents were born;

Draw the favourite flower of your parents;

Tell us a story about your parents;

Draw a portrait of your parents with your minds;

Perform a musical improvisation about your mother or father;

Imagine what you will look like when you are as old as your parents are today;

Take a photo of your mother or father doing a typical daily activity, such as walking or cooking;

Write down some suggestions to your mother or father;

Observe your mother or father at home for 30 minutes and make a note of your observations;

Take a blank sheet of paper and write down a wish for your parents;

Please stand at this line on which numbers from 3 to 24 indicate years of life;

Choose a number, stand on it for 3 minutes with your eyes closed and think about what happened or will happen in this year of your life;

Imagine that you are in the future and already have your own children – draw a picture of what you would like to experience with your own children;