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生 / ShēngSong Dong

October 26, 2022

Visit our Awards page for this film’s honors and recognition.

The impermanence of life is held at bay by the power of memory and our relationships to others. The artist Song Dong explores this truth throughout his body of work. Entwining art and life, absence and recollection, parent and child, the artist bridges the gap between the past and present, allowing him to forge new paths and relations in the future. Working with his wife, artist Yin Xiuzhen, and daughter, Song ErRui, Song Dong directly addresses the theme of 生 / Shēng, which the artist describes as “the living, life, and reproduction.”  

As a child, Song Dong practiced calligraphy with water on stone. This experience inspired Water Records (2010) and Traceless Stele (2016), which are shown installed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In Water Records, the artist records himself using an ink brush to paint images and write texts on stone that begin to evaporate before they can be completed. In the gallery, Traceless Stele stands nearly eight feet tall – a steel slab inviting viewers to create their own vanishing works with water.  Shown walking through the hutong (a traditional Beijing residential community composed of buildings, courtyards, and alleyways) where he grew up, the artist describes how his relationship with his father inspired a series of works which began with Touching My Father (1997). Projecting an image of his hand upon his father, Song reaches out to touch him after years had passed without any physical contact between the two, calling attention to the distance that grew between them since Song’s youth. 

Family and collaboration are at the heart of The Way of Chopsticks, an ongoing project and series of exhibitions shared by Song and artist Yin Xiuzhen, his wife. Nearing the 18th anniversary of The Way of the Chopsticks, Song and Yin invited their daughter to participate in the fourth iteration of the exhibition. The collaboration is thematized around the concept of 生 / Shēng, shining a light on the centrality of life and collaboration in Song Dong’s own practice. For Song Dong, art is about growing and learning together. “It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s an artwork or not,” he says, “Instead, what matters is the relationship between us and the thinking it provokes.”

More information and credits


Extended Play Series Producer: Ian Forster. Directors: Bryan Chang, Andrea Chung, Vicky Du. Editor: Kira Dane. Camera: Yang Bo, Bryan Chang, Christoph Lerch. Sound: Zhou Yang. Assistant Camera: Oliver Richardt, Yifan Wen. Colorist: Jonah Greenstein. Sound Mix: EJ Markland. Assistant Editor: Mengchen Zhang, Michelle Hanks. Music: Blue Dot Sessions. Artwork Courtesy: Song Dong, Yin Xiuzhen, Song ErRui.

Extended Play is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the Art21 Contemporary Council; and by individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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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.

Yin Xiuzhen

Yin Xiuzhen was born in 1963 in Beijing, China. Working in site-specific installation and sculpture, Yin uses second-hand or recycled items like clothing and domestic objects to create works that preserve personal memories in a rapidly globalizing and homogenizing world.