Song Dong

Song Dong was born in 1966 in Beijing, China. Working with humble, readily accessible materials, such as household objects, wooden window and door frames, and even food, Song Dong creates sculptures, installations, videos, and performance works that explore personal and collective memory, impermanence, and the transience of human endeavor.

On the forefront of conceptual art in China in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Song Dong had studied painting, but he soon began working in video and performance, inciting his early investigations into impermanence: in the ongoing work, Water Diary (1994–), the artist documents his daily activities with evaporating water calligraphy on stone, and for his Breathing (1996) performance, the artist formed a thin layer of ice with his breath on the ground of Tiananmen Square during a freezing winter. His most well-known installation, Waste Not (2005), posthumously catalogued more than 10,000 items from his mother’s Beijing home, creating at once a time capsule of a half-century of Chinese culture and consumption and a psychological process for coping with personal grief. Song’s installations made of edible sweets, titled Eating the City (2003–ongoing), mimic the continuous destruction and redevelopment of his hometown and explore urges that both create and destroy cities. Song has also collaborated with his wife, the artist Yin Xiuzhen, on the series, The Way of the Chopsticks (2001–ongoing). Both deeply personal and universally relatable, Song Dong’s works are poetic meditations on the fleeting nature of life.

Song Dong studied at Capital Normal University in Beijing. He has had major solo shows at Mana Contemporary, Jersey City, New Jersey (2017); Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2017); K11 Art Space, Shanghai, China (2016); Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, Germany (2016); Groninger Museum, Netherlands (2015); Baró, São Paulo, Brazil (2014); 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney, Australia (2013); Barbican Art Gallery, London, England (2012); Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China (2011); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2011); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2009); REDCAT, Los Angeles, California (2007); and others. His work has been included in the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India (2019); the Venice Biennale, Italy (2015); Documenta 13, Kassel, Germany (2012); the Liverpool Biennial, England (2010); among many other international group exhibitions. Song Dong lives and works in Beijing.

Read more

Teaching with Contemporary Art

Teaching in a Pandemic

Joe Fusaro, Art21 senior education advisor, considers the challenges of maintaining a teaching practice during a global crisis.

Conversation Starter

How can history matter in the present?

Using objects, images, or written material from the past, artists create a window into our present.