Pandemic Reckoning, 2021

My mother, Patty Pei-Yu Tang, emigrated in 1974 from Taiwan to the U.S. for graduate school at Fort Hays University in Kansas. She worked as an accountant until her retirement in 2017 when she resumed her childhood love of Chinese calligraphy and painting.

Driven by her grief over the staggering American death toll and her premonition the COVID-19 pandemic would be long-lasting, she began transcribing reported casualties from in March 2020, which became the source of her daily hand-written death counts, collected in the accounting ledger. Day by day, my mother reckons with the lives lost. I found her labor was significant and meaningful. When she felt like stopping, I encouraged her to continue her daily practice, with the promise I would put her work to good use.

I share her ritual to honor the hundreds of thousands of individuals represented by each number. Every page of my mother’s ledger is montaged into the video piece, “Pandemic Reckoning” 2021. This quotidian computation of the COVID-19 catastrophe is new calligraphy and my muse.