Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen: The Way of Chopsticks

12 Sep - 29 Dec 2013
Philadelphia Art Alliance

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Song Dong, Yin Xiuzhen, and Song ErRui with The Way of Chopsticks III. Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Art Alliance.

The Philadelphia Art Alliance (PAA) presents a site-specific installation by Beijing-based artists Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen, exploring themes of family, artistic collaboration, fabrication, and the passage of time. Husband and wife Dong and Xiuzhen occasionally collaborate on artistic projects, creating sculptural installations using or referencing common materials and ordinary household objects. They came of age in the rapidly changing China of the 1980s and were deeply influenced by the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Both began as painters and, over the course of their careers, have investigated ways to make work that references domestic and cultural environments more literally: found objects, humble materials, and videos that capture moments from daily life. It is this notion of reference to everyday things that inspired Song and Yin to develop a series of collaborative sculptures called The Way of Chopsticks. Since 2001, the artists have collaborated on pairs of chopstick sculptures created according to certain agreed-upon parameters, but completed in isolation. Neither artist knows what the other will do until the final sculptures are revealed. Past Chopstick sculptures have referenced the real estate boom in contemporary China by evoking a large yellow crane, while others have been made solely from beams of light projected after dark. The form of the chopstick has numerous references that can be understood around the globe: an easily marketed, "deliverable" signifier of Chinese-ness recognized immediately the world over, and a reference to food and domesticity.

It is this thematic connection with home, family, and the passing of generations that has inspired Song and Xiuzhen to respond to the PAA's site, a former mansion, by planning to install existing and new works addressing this theme. They will create six new pairs of chopstick sculptures, each with different variables. They plan to use the entire building as well as the roof and the exterior. The installation will comprise sculpture and a two-channel video produced by Song Dong on the theme of childhood in contemporary China. The artists also plan to work with their daughter Song ErRui, who will be eleven years old during the summer of 2013.

Song Dong is best known in the United States for his work Waste Not, which was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in 2009. Waste Not was comprised of the contents of his mother's house accumulated over the course of 50 years during a period of state-mandated austerity and featured collections of objects such as plastic slippers, empty toothpaste tubes, plastic shopping bags, and other ephemera, all lovingly arranged with the care one might expect in the handling of rare and precious objects. Yin Xiuzhen imbues her sculptures with a feminist point of view by using materials such as recycled clothing, fabric, and thread to create installations that address domesticity and transience in contemporary China. Xiuzhen's sculptural works such as Portable City have been exhibited at galleries including Pace Beijing, Alexander Ochs (Berlin), and Chambers Fine Art (New York), as well as the Small Sculpture Triennale in Fellbach, Germany."