Song Dong, Same Bed Different Dreams No. 3, 2018, steel, wooden windows/doors/beds, mirror, coated glass, lights, daily necessities, porcelain, 254.5 cm × 224.5 cm × 361 cm (8' 4-3/16" × 88-3/8" × 11' 10-1/8") © Song Dong

Song Dong

Song Dong_v01


b. 1966, Beijing, China

Song Dong, a key figure in Chinese contemporary art, explores themes of memory, self-expression, impermanence, and the transience of human endeavors.

His projects are often composed with quotidian objects and ephemera, proposing a destabilization of material hierarchies in relationship to personal and global themes.

Song was introduced to painting and calligraphy at a young age, which ultimately led him to study painting. He was acutely aware of the 85 New Wave movement during this time, which proposed a radical turn toward expressive and experimental innovations. In addition, the work of Robert Rauschenberg had a profound impact on his practice and contributed to his abandonment of painting in favor of video and performance. One of Song’s earliest performance pieces, Another Lesson: Do You Want to Play with Me? (1994), questioned the roles of educational institutions, transforming the Central Academy of Fine Arts Gallery into a classroom in which exam papers covered the walls and floor, middle-school students were instructed to read blank textbooks, and participants were invited to write on surrounding blackboards. The performance was shut down within half an hour of its opening by the police, who accused the artist of inciting the public and creating a fire hazard.


Song Dong, Water Diary, 1995, color photograph, 40 cm x 60 cm (15-3/4" x 23-5/8") each, 4 pieces

Song’s investigations of impermanence led him to create performances that he has revisited in ongoing iterations, such as Water Diary (1995–) wherein the artist documented his daily activity of writing in water on stone, only to watch it evaporate. Inspired by childhood memories of food scarcity, Song used the cultural significance of food as a means to inspire dialogue and participation in pieces such as Edible Pen Jing (Bonsai) (2000) and his later Eating the City series.

In 2005, Song created the installation Waste Not as an act of physical and psychological unpacking. Consisting of over ten thousand items accumulated by his mother over a span of five decades, Waste Not exists as a veritable landscape of commodities. Ranging from bottle caps, shoes, blankets, toothpaste tubes, metal pots, and toys the installation becomes a meditation on consumption and the archive.

Song’s practice encompasses performance, installation, video, sculpture, painting, and calligraphy, often combining mediums within a single work. Themes of consumption, poverty, and globalization are examined and presented as a means to inspire dialogue and participation.


Song Dong, Doing Nothing Doing Debris 009, 2014, old window, 111 cm × 158 cm × 90 cm (43-11/16" × 62-3/16" × 35-7/16") © Song Dong


Song Dong, Usefulness of Uselessness - Rectangular Window No. 9, 2017, old wooden window, mirror, mirror panel, glass, hinge, handle, door and window bolts, 68 cm × 172 cm × 8 cm (26-3/4" × 67-11/16" × 3-1/8") © Song Dong