Program Type: 
Song Dong

Dad and Mom, Don’t Worry About Us, We Are All Well

February 26, 2011 - June 12, 2011
Downstairs Galleries


Song Dong is known for his innovative conceptual videos and photography that quietly reveal the societal implications of modern China. They also express how he personally copes with his country's rapid development, while retaining a spiritual connection to the past. A highly skilled artist, Song Dong’s works are especially powerful in expressing the effects of radical change and social transformation on members of his own family. It is this latter aspect of his work that has set him apart from the many extraordinary artists who have also been grappling with the rapid changes China is experiencing.

The centerpiece of Song Dong: Dad and Mom, Don’t Worry About Us, We Are All Well is the much heralded, large-scale installation Waste Not comprised of over 10,000 items ranging from pots and basins to blankets, bottle caps, toothpaste tubes, and stuffed animals collected by the artist's mother over the course of more than five decades. This installation has been shown at prestigious venues across Asia, Europe and North America since it was first created in 2005, but YBCA will be the first venue to present Waste Not in a larger context of Song Dong’s work focusing on his family.

Waste Not follows the Chinese concept of wu jin qi yong or 'waste not,' as a prerequisite for survival. The project evolved out of a family necessity and the artist's mother's grief after the death of her husband. The assemblage of thousands and thousands of items takes up a 70 x 60 foot area that viewers can navigate around and through. The centerpiece of the installation is the architectural armature of the building where the artist was born. A core theme of Waste Not is the idea that people, everyday objects and personal stories are not only spiritually rich in thematic material but recognizable evidence of the impact of politics and history on family life.

The exhibition also features a selection of the artist's videos, photographs and a newly commissioned work. Collectively, the works create a longitudinal portrait of Song Dong's use of art as a way to form closer bonds with his mother and father, as well as his siblings, wife and daughter, and to express the power of the family as a social unit. Other works in the exhibition include Touching My Father (1997), Father and Son in the Ancestral Temple (1998), Listening to My Family Talking about How I Was Born (2001) and Chinese Medicine Healing Story (2011), all of which use photo-based imagery to consider familial identity, individuality and the legacy of ancestors.

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  • Good Fortunes — Song Dong: Opening Night Party
    Feb 25, 2011 8:00pm – 11:00pm
    Downstairs Galleries
    $12 advance / $15 at the door / FREE for YBCA Members

    Donor Circle Members ($500+) are invited to a private tour of the exhibition with Song Dong at 6 PM
    Groundbreaker and Discoverer Members are invited to a preview reception from 7-8 PM

    Presented by the San Francisco Bay Guardian
    Celebrate Chinese New Year and the opening of Dad and Mom, Don’t Worry About Us, We Are All Well, a solo exhibition by Chinese conceptual artist Song Dong.

    Tour the exhibition, sip cocktails and enjoy musical entertainment by San Francisco-based electronic artist Jonas Reinhardt, who looks to the analog sounds, organic atmospheres and hypnotic rhythms of '70s pioneers such as Jean Michel-Jarre, Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream for inspiration.

    Join San Francisco’s Chinese Culture Center in the Room for Big Ideas for Daily Lives, an interactive exhibition exploring everyday existence through a variety of sensory experiences. Bring your treasured objects, scraps of material and little mementos to be repurposed as part of the work, Discarded Repairs. Explore the powerful sense of smell by collaborating on a scent to be included in the piece, Close to Home.

    Admission ticket includes entry to win prizes from Blue Turtle Spa and local restaurants. Plus, fortune cookies and party surprises from the Asian Heritage Street Celebration


  • Song Dong: Artists' Roundtable
    Feb 26, 2011 2:00pm – 4:00pm
    Large Conference Room
    FREE w/Gallery Admission

    A roundtable discussion focusing on the work of Song Dong, how it relates to that of other artists who emerged in the 1990s; the impact it has had on the younger generation of Chinese artists; and how it has been received both inside and outside of China. Participants include: Song Dong, Britta Erickson, Wu Hung, Zheng Shengtian.

    The Artists' Roundtable for the Song Dong exhibition is made possible by The W.L.S. Spencer Foundation.

  • Break on Through to the Other Side...
    Apr 15, 2011 6:00pm
    Screening Room
    FREE w/Gallery Admission

    Screening with introduction by the curator, Malcolm Ferris
    Break on Through to the Other Side... is a video compilation of Chinese performance art from the 1990s through the present by artists Ji Sheng Lu, Tian Yibin, Sun Ping, He Yunchang, The Gao Brothers, Wang Chuyu, Xia Jianguo, Zhang Minjie, and others. The artists were invited to submit existing or new video works which, in the spirit of The Doors’ iconic song, address the concept of overcoming boundaries or limitations and breaking down barriers. Curator Malcolm Ferris is Research and Academic Development Director at Plymouth College of Art in Devon, England.

  • Song Dong: Dad and Mom, Don't Worry About Us, We Are All Well
    February 26, 2011 – June 11, 2011
    Downstairs Galleries
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Related Programs

June 3, 2011 - June 4, 2011
YBCA Forum

The Kronos Quartet reunites with long-time collaborator Wu Man to present two important works from their repertoire: A Chinese Home and Ghost Opera.

February 26, 2011 - June 12, 2011
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Inspired by artist Song Dong’s investigations of family, consumerism, and the small meditative moments that punctuate an ordinary life, Daily Lives is a group exhibition borne out of a collaboration between YBCA and the Chinese Culture Center.

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Curator Statement

Song Dong: Dad and Mom, Don’t Worry About Us, We Are All Well is an exhibition of objects and images that represent one artist’s relationship to members of his own family. What emerges is not a chronicle or a memory aid, but works of art that make immediate a quest for self-knowledge gained through mining familial dynamics in the context of dramatic historical changes. In considering the work of Beijing-based artist Song Dong, it is more than symbolic to note that he was born in 1966, the first year of one of the harshest periods of recent Chinese history known as the Cultural Revolution, which ended upon Mao Zedong’s death in 1976. In 1978, Song Shiping, the artist’s father returned from a re-education camp, but his years away from the family had created a distance between father and son. The consequences of this separation is the starting point for a series of video installations and photographs created between 1997 and 2011, conceived as a means to form stronger familial bonds that blend art and life. Even before Song Dong’s birth his mother, Zhao Xiangyuan, had begun the practice of wu jin qi yong, or “waste not,” an adage of early Communism to save domestic materials that could be reused in the future. Song Dong, in collaboration with his mother, created the art installation titled Waste Not in 2005 of the accumulated contents of his mother’s home, over 10,000 objects, to assuage her grief over the death of his father in 2002. This exhibition is a window into the personal struggles of one family, representing a moment in time in a specific place. More than that, it also represents a universal story about how larger histories affect the life journeys of individuals.

Betti-Sue Hertz, Director of Visual Arts
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Artist Bio

Song Dong was born in China in 1966 and currently lives and works in Beijing. He has been a significant figure in the development of Chinese conceptual art since the early 1990s. His practice incorporates performance, photography, projection, video and installation. Emerging from a strong Beijing–based avant-garde performance art community, Song Dong explores notions of perception and the ephemeral nature of existence. Like many of his contemporaries, his political and financial circumstances have encouraged a solitary, meditative way of working in which ideas are expressed through inexpensive materials and small-scale works, dubbed 'apartment art' by Chinese critics. In his photographic series and short video pieces, Song Dong uses sequenced images to explore a rapidly modernizing China and to capture notions of transience and illusion in contemporary society. Song Dong’s work has been shown extensively throughout Europe, Asia and North America including the Museum of Modern Art (2009), PS 1 in New York (2007), SFMOMA (2007), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2006), Sao Paolo Biennale (2004), Istanbul Biennale (2003), Centre Pompidou in Paris (2003), the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis(2003) and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (2003).

YBCA's programs are made possible in part by:
The San Francisco Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Koret Foundation
Adobe Foundation Fund

YBCA Exhibitions 10–11 is made possible in part by:
Meridee Moore and Kevin King, CEC ArtsLink and Members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Le Meridian
Free First Tuesdays
Underwritten by Directors Forum Members