Who Is Melly Shum And Why Does She Hate Her Job? Bob Cut Investigated
For those curious, no, Melly Shum is not a real person but if you are a Dogpatch frequent, this loud poster has gotten your attention every time. That's what artist Ken Lum wants.
Vancouver-born artist Ken Lum, is known for his conceptual and representational art in a number of media, including painting, sculpture and photography. A longtime professor, he currently is the Chair of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design in Philadelphia.
Of course, Melly Shum is not a real person but to Ken, the real person is inside all of us. Ken spoke to us briefly about the work, "I had the honour of being the inaugural exhibitor at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam when it opened its doors in 1990." He tells us, "the exhibition was a survey of my furniture sculptures, language paintings, and photo-text works. One of the latter works included was Melly Shum Hates Her Job. Represented is a disheveled young woman sitting in her cramped office. Along with this photograph is text that echoes the title of the work. The vibrating “HATES” speaks of the frustration of Melly Shum even though the voice of the text is ambiguous. As a way to advertise my exhibition and the opening of the Witte de With, I was asked whether I would agree to remake one of my photo-text works in billboard form for display on an outside wall of the museum. I agree on the condition that the billboard contains no mention of my name or any wording citing my exhibition."
Essentially what we see today (as of writing this, the Melly Shum poster has been removed from the side of the CCA Fine Arts building), a random poster of a woman who looks calm but CLEARLY hates her job. "At the end of the exhibition, the image of Melly was taken down and the Witte de With staff received several telephone calls and a number of written protest messages demanding Melly’s reinstatement. Asked by Witte de With curators and staff why it was important for Melly Shum to return to the corner at Witte de Withstraat and Boomgaardstraat, several callers reasoned that every city needs a monument to hating one’s job."
And even crazier, Melly herself has fans—there are pages dedicated to Melly and her terrible job from which we learned from Ken, "Flickr and Facebook pages have been created in honour of Melly Shum and her persona has even been adopted by a Tweeter who regularly tweets about hating his own job. While I may have created Melly Shum Hates Her Job, the public has been activating the work far beyond my initial intentions.
// Kenlumart.com; The "Melly Shum Hates Her Job" installation has since been removed from CCA's exterior but you can always spot her in Rotterdam.