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Song Dong

Carriageworks and 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in association with the Sydney Festival present two exhibitions by one of China’s pre-eminent artists, Song Dong.

Presented at Carriageworks, Waste Not is a monumental installation occupying the entire public space of the multi-disciplinary arts institution. Conceived by the artist following the death of his father, the work represents the artist’s mother’s process of mourning and remembrance. Consisting of the entire contents of her house Waste Not reflects a journey of hardship and grief, resulting in a display of personal resilience and ultimately a celebration of life. 

Presented at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Dad and Mum, Don’t Worry about Us, We are All Well is an important survey of Song Dong’s work from the past two decades. The exhibition contains video, photographic, neon and installation work and reinforces the power of simple actions and the process of remembering. Song Dong’s work evokes the experience of social and cultural dislocation as well as the compelling connections between parents and children. 

Beijing-based artist Song Dong has been at the forefront of conceptual art in China for more than two decades and has become known for his personal performances and installations. 

Recently presented to high acclaim at MoMA (New York) and the Barbican (London), Waste Not will be presented exclusively in Australia at Carriageworks, as part of the official Sydney Festival 2013 program. Combined with 4A’s survey show Waste Not also represents Song Dong’s first solo exhibition in Australia. 

First created in 2005, Waste Not has been described as one of Song Dong’s most powerful and poignant works. The work consists of more than 10,000 domestic objects and family items collected by the artist’s mother over five decades, ranging from household pots and pans, to blankets, bottle tops, toothpaste and toys. Through the work, Song Dong sought to give his mother “space to put her memories and history in order.” 

“Through this work I wished to reconnect my mother with people and give her a new start in life,” Song Dong explained about Waste Not

Whilst the installation was originally conceived to assist his mother in her grieving for her late husband, the work took on additional meaning when Song Dong’s mother passed away suddenly in 2009. Today, the artist sees the installation as a tribute to his parents, as well as a meditation on family life. 

The title of the work Waste Not makes reference to the Communist saying hailing from the Chinese Cultural Revolution ‘wu jin qu yong’, which literally translates to ‘waste not’. This adage encouraged citizens to save and reuse objects: an essential life practice during periods of social and political turmoil in China. 

Carriageworks Director Lisa Havilah said: “Carriageworks is proud to present this major installation by renowned international artist Song Dong for the first time in Australia. Waste Not continues to strengthen the breadth and quality of the Carriageworks contemporary visual arts program and is a high-note to commence our 2013 artistic program.” 

4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art Director Aaron Seeto said: “Waste Not is quite literally a once in a lifetime work. 4A is proud to be bringing this work to Australian audiences, and to be presenting a selection of art historically important works to contextualise the significant role that Song Dong plays as a leading conceptual artist whose influence and impact on global contemporary art is well understood.” 

5 January – 17 March 2013 
Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh, NSW 
Free entry 

Exhibition dates: 5 January – 30 March 2013 
4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art , 181-187 Hay Street, Sydney NSW 
Free entry