San Francisco: Major new exhibit by conceptual artist Song Dong at YBCA

Born in Beijing in 1966, Song Dong has been a significant figure in the development of Chinese conceptual art since the early 1990s.

Waste Not - Song Dong

Waste Not - Song Dong

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts announced that a major new exhibition featuring the work of Chinese conceptual artist, Song Dong opens next month. The exhibition, Dad and Mom, Don’t Worry About Us, We Are All Well, features the artist’s large-scale installation, Waste Not, along with a selection of Song Dong’s video installations and photography, including new works, YBCA is the first institution to present Waste Not in the larger context of the artist’s work focused on his family.

Born in Beijing in 1966, Song Dong has been a significant figure in the development of Chinese conceptual art since the early 1990s. His practice incorporates performance, photography, projection, video, and installation, paying careful attention to the social and spiritual implications of China’s rapid development.

As an example, Song Dong’s 2005 installation, Waste Not, is an anatomy of the home he grew up in during the Cultural Revolution. Comprised of over 10,000 items ranging from pots and basins to blankets, bottle caps, toothpaste tubes, and stuffed animals collected by Song Dong’s mother over the course of more than five decades, the assemblage follows the early Communist adage of wu jin qu yong, or “waste not,” as a national virtue and a prerequisite for survival.

The project evolved out of a family necessity and the artist’s mother’s grief after the death of her husband. Measuring about 70 feet by 60 feet, the installation is designed to be navigated around and through. The centerpiece of the installation is the architectural armature of the building where the artist was born. “It is at once a record of a life, a history of a half-century of Chinese vernacular culture, and a symbolic archive of impermanence” writes art critic Holland Cotter in The New York Times.

Some of the other works in the exhibition include Touching My Father (1997), Father and Son in the Ancestral Temple (1998), Listening to My Family Talking about How I Was Born (2001) and Chinese Medicine Healing Story (2011), all of which use lens-based media, photography or video projection to consider familial identity, individuality and the legacy of ancestors in the face of China’s rapid modernization.

Song Dong, Waste Not 2006, Courtesy Tokyo Gallery + BTAP
Song Dong, Waste Not 2006, Courtesy Tokyo Gallery + BTAP

In tandem with the exhibition, YBCA has organized two public programs. On Saturday, February 26, 2 – 4pm there will be a roundtable discussion focusing on the work of Song Dong. Issues to be discussed include his work’s relationship to that of other artists who emerged in China in the 1990s; the impact his work has had on the younger generation of Chinese artists; and how his work has been received both inside and outside of China. Present at this roundtable discussion will be the artist himself, joined by eminent art historians Britta Erickson, Wu Hung, and Zheng Shengtian.

On Friday, April 15, 7pm, YBCA will present “Break on Through to the Other Side…”, a compilation of videos of Chinese performance art curated by Malcolm Ferris, Research and Academic Development Director at Plymouth College of Art in Devon, England. Included in this screening are the artists Ji Sheng Lu, Tian Yibin, Sun Ping, He Yunchang, The Gao Brothers, Wang Chuyu, Xia Jianguo, Zhang Minjie, among others.

YBCA Presents a Major New Exhibition of Chinese Conceptual Artist Song Dong:

Dad and Mom, Don’t Worry About Us, We Are All Well

Featuring His 2005 Installation Waste Not, a Selection of the Artist’s Video Installations and Photography, Including New Works

February 26 – June 12, 2011

Opening Night Party, Friday February 25, 8pm – Midnight

Public Programs:
Saturday, February 26, 2 – 4pm: Roundtable Discussion with Song Dong
and eminent art historians Britta Erickson, Wu Hung, and Zheng Shengtian

Friday, April 15, 7pm: “Break on Through to the Other Side…”:
A screening of videos of Chinese performance art

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