Song Dong. Life is Art, Art is Life

A map of the world made of thousands of sweets, a wildflower-strewn hill made of waste and grass made of green whipped cream. These are examples of the work of Song Dong (Beijing, 1966). His first major solo exhibition, including videos, installations and photographs, opens at the Groninger Museum on 13 June 2015. Song Dong is one of the most important internationally operating Chinese artists of our times. His work has been exhibited by leading institutes worldwide.

His eye-catching work Waste Not occupies a prominent place in the exhibition. The installation consists of the household effects that are the result of his mother’s collector mania. This work was previously exhibited by the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Barbican Centre in London and at the Biennale of Sidney in 2013.

Song Dong was traditionally trained as a painter. However in 1989, after the Tiananmen Square protests, he abruptly stopped painting to manifest a few years later with – by Chinese standards – more experimental art forms such as performance, photography and video installation art. In his conceptual work, Song explores themes like impermanence, transience and loss. For his performance Breathing (1996), Song lay on his stomach on Tiananmen Square for 40 minutes on a freezing New Year’s Eve. His warm breath created a temporary layer of ice on the cold ground. He repeated this performance on the frozen Lake Houhai, an artificial lake north of the Forbidden City, this time to no avail. The next morning, all traces of his performance on the square had disappeared as well: all that remains are the photographs that register the performance.

In recent years, the Groninger Museum has regularly spotlighted contemporary Chinese art, in both group and solo exhibitions (‘New World Order’ (2008), ‘Ai Weiwei’ (2008), ‘Me, Myself and I: Chi Peng’ (2011), ‘Yin Xiuzhen’ (2012), ‘Fuck Off 2. Curated by Ai Weiwei, Feng Boyi, Mark Wilson’ (2013)). This major retrospective of the work of Song Dong, which will cover two museum floors, will add depth to this practise.

After closing in Groningen, the exhibition will travel to the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf.

  • Song Dong Original Fake, Cream Grass © Song Dong courtesy of Pace Beijing