‘… the “wisdom of the poor” allows sharing to become a fundamental community value.’
Born 1966, Beijing. Lives and works in Beijing.
Themes of community and communication have occupied Song Dong since his earliest performance works. In recent works utilising architectural fragments and the remaining possessions of earlier generations, Song Dong creates ‘ancestral temples’ that honour the past, engage critically with the present, and look to the future. In the Wisdom of the Poor series Song Dong transforms old furniture, domestic appliances, toys and building materials into complex installations. Metaphors of the passage of time and of personal and cultural memory, they are inflected by Daoist philosophy and the animist idea that physical traces are left behind by people who have departed, contained forever in the objects they have used. Operator (2009), made from an obsolete telephone switchboard, belongs to this series of reconfigured spaces and furnishings. Intended as both an installation and a performance event, the old switchboard where once an operator directed phone calls has been transformed. The back of the timber cabinet has become a space resembling a tiny shop, or a puppet theatre, with curtained panels that open out, a mirrored wardrobe door and cabinets, and a small space for a seated occupant. Song Dong says, ‘My first home after birth was just 5.8 square metres. My parents, my sister, my brother and I lived together in it, and that 5.8 square metre space held all the functions of our life.’ Inside the hybrid switchboard/home Song Dong installed book shelves, power outlets, lights, a bed, a table for playing chess, eating and drinking tea; there was even a portable toilet concealed underneath the bed. Musing on the ease of human connectedness in the age of the internet, Song Dong thinks that this tiny space, where two people can (just) squeeze in together, provides everything they could possibly need, except perhaps a Smartphone.