Patty Chang

Milk Debt

Milk Debt is a performance and video installation project that consists of six to twelve videos of lactating women pumping their breast milk while reciting a list of fears drawn from different communities in various geographical regions. The title Milk Debt comes from the debt in Chinese Buddhism that is attributed to the child for the impossibility of ever repaying the mother for raising and feeding it with her breast milk. Therefore, it is necessary to repay the debt through payments towards the afterlife of the mother (i.e. in the form of joss paper/ghost money/payments to the temple). Milk Debt is an arrangement that binds us to our history and to the earth.

Milk Debt script June 9, 2019, Hong Kong

Edited by Patty Chang

I will live like a zombie in this city.   I fear that I won’t even feel or experience a mid-life crisis as I am so used to the way of life here. I have lost my ability to see things beyond the surface.  
I am horrified by the possibility that I will become someone who feels numb or insensitive about everything in life.  
I fear that I will become “them”, the bankers, the real estate agents, the lawyers, the overworked doctors, the overworked housewives, the overworked teachers.  
I fear that I will have no identity or personality except for the job title I have.

He loves me not because of who I am, he has other motives in mind.
He is after my family, my insurance, my job, my car, my dog.
He likes me because I am not threatening to who he is.
He chooses me because he is taking revenge on someone else.
He chooses me because he is tired of dating and feels ready to settle down.
He chooses me because he needs someone or something to make sense of his life.
He chooses me because I remind him of someone he truly loves.
He will regret that decision and blame me for it.

I fear that my father’s house will be confiscated by a developer one day.
A construction company will stop by and the land I used to play on - the river, the mountain, the trees, the field, will all be gone. That place will be turned into tasteless mansions that people buy not to live in, but to invest. When I return I won’t be able to locate anything, not a trace of the place where I used to live.

No matter what I do, it will never be good enough.
My skin color will still hinder me from getting the jobs I want, from getting the respect I need.
When I work in a bank I will be mistaken for a body guard or security because of my accent or skin color.
I fear my children will face the same fate even if they’re highly educated.

My husband will die early.
My husband will die.
One day he will wake up and realize I'm a shitty person.
Going outside the lines.
Erratic scheduling.
Losing control.
I have already lost control.
I have obsessive compulsive disorder.
I am offending those who actually have obsessive compulsive disorder.
My mother, but only in the context of myself.
She will read my stories one day and realize everything is about her.
She will think she made all of me and I will lose autonomy over myself.
People will find out about the time I threw my friend's toy in the fire because I felt my mother loved her more than me.
I was right and she did love her more.
I'm a terrible daughter.
I am irrationally selfish.
I am too anxious.
I am too old to try new things.
Cysts growing and exploding inside of me.
My impending deafness
Noise-cancelling headphones
One day, I will have no place to go.

When I try to book a flight or hotel, my passport will be invalid.
I cannot locate my place of birth on the booking site, or in applying for a credit card.
I will be questioned at customs with people not knowing what to do with my ID.
I will become a stateless citizen.
My children will become stateless citizens.
I cannot travel abroad anymore.
I will leave and cannot return.

They are going to get us.
They are going to confiscate all my cellphone data, and email, and locate us.
They will publish a list of where I’ve been to, whom I’ve met, whom I have had intimacy with.
They will make a list of all of us and shame us
Those who never said a thing about my sexuality, my life, and my social life will turn against me.

I am afraid of what they will find out.
I am afraid you will die of cancer.
I will respond inappropriately.
You will have to undergo chemo.
You will lose your hair and go bald.
You will suffer.
Crying on the telephone.
What I will say.
I will not get to see you since I am so far away.
I will lose you.
I will live too long and watch all my friends pass away.

Becoming more anti-social, and overcompensating by being obsessed with social media.
Becoming indifferent and less sensitive to injustice.
Becoming my father.
Ageism, and the ageism I will face when I get old.
Becoming emotionally over-attached to my pets.
endless dream

My children will become domestic helpers like me.
My children will be abused when working as domestic helpers.
They will have a university degree but still have to work as domestic helpers in Hong Kong.
That cycle will never end.
They’re still saying we’re the happiest people in the world without knowing or caring about our struggle and the difficult choices we have to make every day.

A homogenous world.
Extinction of more languages.
Every culture turning into a tourist cliché.
Losing my mother tongue.
Lacking the drive to travel because everywhere is the same.

When things get serious and desperate no prayer will be effective.
The relationship I think I have established with god is just a fantasy.
When things get serious and desperate I pray and all I can hear is silence.

Low GPA, no job.
High GPA, but still no job.
Meaningless internships.
Not getting credit for what I’ve done.
Being used.
Unable to pay student loans.
Always in debt.
Not enough transferable skills upon graduation.
Getting a job that anyone can be qualified for.
Jokes about failed college students.
My degree means nothing and I need another one to get an entry-level job.
My degree is a fraud

Fake accounts
Fake “likes”
Fake activists
Fake company addresses
Fake confidence
Fake tweets
Multiple personalities

My son will still be bothered by comments that people made online, even when he turns 30.
He will cut ties with me when I tell him again to stop posting things on the internet.
He is addicted to that and acts crazy.
All the friends he has are just strangers online.
He will cut ties with me when I stop the wi-fi service.

Living in a big house all by myself.
Not being close with my family anymore.
Not being loved as who I really am.
Not being able to understand what people really mean in their words.
Having to socialize too much.
The desire to disconnect from everyone.
Not finding anywhere that I belong.
Looking in the mirror and not recognizing myself.
Dying in a painfully slow way.
To never get over you.
To never meet someone like you.
Wanting to end myself sometimes.
The urge to destroy people I love.
Not being able to make art anymore.
Being interested in what I used to hate.
Becoming another person who might actually be the real me.
Knowing that hatred will never go away.
Being ignorant.
Mosquitos flying pass my ear while I’m in bed.
Bumping into my ex.
To learn that my dad might actually have other kids with another woman.

My language dying out.
Hong Kong slowly becoming China.
Traditional Chinese characters being replaced by simplified Chinese.
The Hong Kong I see now will become history.
The Hong Kong I see today will become history.
Going to Europe, being identified as Chinese, Japanese,
me calling them out and them raping me and beating me up.
The earth coming to an end.
Being smothered by bricks and concrete.
Being shot in America.
Experiencing a terrorist attack.
Being watched by a camera in my own home.
Being watched by my webcam.
Seeing myself on a porn site.
Losing the ability to fight back.
Being held down by fear and carrying regrets.

Torn photos or maps
Waves at night
Animals caught in plastic
Dead whales
Chimpanzees eating monkeys
How fast-food fried chicken is made.
Dormant volcanoes
Injured athletes
Snakes chasing rabbits
The smell of blood coming out from my body.

Climate change
Societal disintegration and economic collapse under climate change
Rising water levels and flooding
Food and water shortages
Communist encroachment in Hong Kong
Communist “liberation” of Taiwan
Article 23
Fugitive Offenders Ordinance
Real estate prices
Underemployment due to my Humanities degree
Becoming penniless in my old age.
Never amounting to anything.
Embarrassing myself.
When my parents die, I will be all alone in the world.
I will die too soon, before my parents, and I’m afraid that it will leave them in despair and uncared for.
I will not die soon enough, before the world deteriorates into some sort of a living hell. 

Losing my memory.
I won’t be able to recognize my children even if they speak to me.
I won’t be able to recognize anyone, including myself.
I won’t be able to recognize anything, even my body.
I won’t be able to speak, because I have forgotten language.