China b.1966

Song Dong
Broken mirror (details) 1999
4 min. colour DVD, sound, ed. 10/12
Collection: The artist

Installation view
Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art 2002
Queensland Art Gallery
Photograph: Matthew Kassay

Song Dong 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. 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. In his photographic series and short video pieces, Song Dong uses sequenced images to explore a rapidly modernising China and to capture notions of transience and illusion in contemporary society.

More information about the artist

Song Dong
Writing diary with water 1995–present
4 colour photographs, ed. 11/12
40 x 60cm each
Collection: The artist

Song Dong
Writing diary with water (detail) 1995–present
4 colour photographs, ed. 11/12
40 x 60cm each
Collection: The artist

Writing diary with water 1995–present comprises four photographs that document an ongoing performance project.
Since 1995, Song Dong has used a calligraphy brush to write daily diary entries in water on a particular block of stone. When Song Dong was a child, his father encouraged him to practise his calligraphy in water on stone because they could not afford ink and paper. As an adult, he returned to this practice when he realised that conventional diary writing posed a risk of disclosure:

‘You might not think about this generally but during the diary writing process consider that someone else might be reading this someday. Since considering this I stopped writing a traditional diary’. (1)

Through this invisible journal, Song Dong engages in the process of diary keeping, knowing that his diary will never be read and that his thoughts will remain secret. The water diary has now become an important part of his life and art:

‘After a while this stone slowly became a part of me. That means I could say anything to it and be unscrupulous. This act became a part of life and it made me more relaxed.’ (2)

The wooden stamp use by the artist in Stamping the water performance
Photograph: Rhana Devenport

Song Dong
Stamping the water (detail) 1996
36 colour photographs, ed. 1/4
120 x 80cm each
Collection: The artist

Stamping the water 1996 is a series of 36 photographs that record another of Song Dong’s performances. In 1996, he conducted a performance in the Lhasa River, Tibet, in which he repeatedly stamped the ‘sacred’ water using an archaic wooden seal carved with the character for water. As with his water diary project, the gesture left no trace, existing purely in time and in the imagination.

1. From an interview with artist Song Dong by Binghui Huangfu, Director of the Earl Lu Gallery, Lasalle SIA College of the Arts, Singapore, for the catalogue of the exhibition ‘Shot in the Face’, December 2001, unpaginated.
2. As note 1.

List of works in APT 2002

Artists and Works
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