Song Dong Builds a House within a House
Fri, Mar 14–Sun, May 18, 2008
The Chinese artist Song Dong, from the People’s Republic of China, erected his room-filling installation 'Waste Not' in the Foyer of the House of World Cultures. It is his parents’ house, which fell victim to urban planning in China and was now being reconstructed together with its entire inventory in the Foyer.
‘Waste not’ – ‘Wu jin qi young’ in Chinese – describes the philosophy of life of an entire generation of ordinary people in China who have grown up with the experience of war, expulsion, starvation and constant shortages of goods.
Song Dong’s mother belongs to this generation. And one can imagine all the things that have accumulated in her house over the decades. When his father died in 2002 and his mother was filled by despair as a result, Song Dong tells us: ‘“Art” was my last hope. And by helping me with my art, my mother was gradually able to shake off her sorrows.’ The two of them worked together on the concept for ‘Waste Not’. This not only helped his mother to work through her problems, but also to emancipate herself from a household that was growing out of control.
The result is both impressive and depressing, with the seemingly countless toys, items of clothing, buttons, ballpoint pens, cupboards, remnants of materials, bags, pots, tubs, toothpaste tubes, etc. are lined up alongside one another like stock.
In the Song Dong’s hands, the entire construction becomes an artefact; he creates multilayer archives full of obsolete Chinese products and manifestations of past living conditions.
Song Dong was born in Beijing (China) in 1966. In 1989, he completed his exams in the field of visual arts at the Normal University there. He has held exhibitions in China, Europe, the USA and Japan, and is one of the most important of the artists who have been involved in developing Chinese conceptual art since the 1990s. His works include performances, photographs, projections, videos and installations. In 2000, he received the UNESCO Aschberg grant. Song Dong lives and works in Beijing.