Junk genre: Drawing inspiration from the useless

Updated: 2016-01-26 10:03

By Lin Qi(China Daily)

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Junk genre: Drawing inspiration from the useless

Song Dong displays at his solo show, Surplus Value, the everyday items that have been transformed into art installations.[Photo provided to China Daily]

He is recognized as one of China's foremost conceptual artists.

Song Dong, 50, has been using objects of daily use in experimental art projects since 2002, discovering aesthetics in discarded things.

The items that he uses range from shoes and window frames to empty bottles and ceramic tiles, and they all come from stuff accumulated by his family over the past decades.

He has transformed these everyday items into art installations and has displayed them around the world.

When recycling old things, Song is not interested in simple remakes like "turning a tin can into a vase", he says.

He attempts to bring out their aesthetic value.

Song's creations are filled with both personal and collective emotions of gratitude and love. Through this, he tries to teach viewers about refinement and life.

Song's current solo exhibition, Surplus Value, at Pace Beijing continues his study of the relationship between people and waste.

"Song Dong has created an art vocabulary based on his personal experiences of growing up (in a Beijing hutong)," says Leng Lin, art critic, curator and president of Pace Beijing.

"He uses items of daily use, which are often ignored and abandoned, to create his works," he says.

At the entrance of the exhibition, Song has placed piles of window frames from his late mother's house, similar to the ones he has used in his displayed works.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a floor-to-ceiling prismatic installation called Zuo Jing Guan Tian. It consists of dozens of the old frames which have been fitted with new glass. When one enters the installation, one is bathed in light produced by a lamp on top of it and from the reflection on the windows.

The title of the work is derived from a Chinese idiom about a frog that looks at the sky from the bottom of a well and hence has a narrow view of the world.

"A person's outlook is limited. Everyone can be that frog in a well. We jump out of the well and go into another well with a wider mouth, by which our knowledge is increased and our mental horizons are widened," Song tells China Daily.

In the installation Emptied Bottles, he fixes several used bottles to a pole to represent cameras on a street. In this work, he looks at the relationship between those being watched and those who are watching them.

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