Last Friday night we went to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, for the opening of the exhibition Song Dong: Dad and Mom, Don’t Worry About Us, We Are All Well.
Quoting from the YBCA's website (http://www.ybca.org/song-dong#overview): "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."
I was particularly struck by the centerpiece of the exhibition, the "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. (...) The work 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."
|Waste Not at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2006|
Song Dong's show at the YBCA is a good show, but what I particularly enjoyed was the chance to go to a museum after dinner (the Opening Night Party went from 8 to 11 pm). It reminded me of a great night I had a few years ago at the Brooklyn Musem, where every first Saturday of the month, for the Target First Saturdays events, "thousands of visitors enjoy free programs of art and entertainment from 5 to 11 p.m. All evening long, the Museum Café serves a wide selection of sandwiches, salads, and beverages, and a cash bar offers wine and beer." (http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/visit/first_saturdays.php) This month, for example, the theme is Tipi: Heritage of the Great Plains, and so they have, amongst many other things, a concert ("Martha Redbone, a R & B, soul, rock, and traditional Native American music"), a performance of traditional songs and dances from Native American tribes, a film, an artist talk, a dance party ("Dee Jay Frame of the Redhawk Arts Council spins tracks fusing hip-hop with traditional Native American melodies and beat": wow!!), a reading and an interactive performance, all while the galleries are open for everyone to enjoy. This is, in my opinion, the greatest and smartest thing a museum can do. From my night at the Brooklyn Museum, years ago, I remember the museum packed with a cheerful mix of people of all ages, colors and social classes, walking around with glasses of wine or beer and looking at the art in a relaxed way, and then a capoeira performance in the main hall of the museum, and then a big dance party. All museums should be like that! Show people that art can be fun, that art is not something boring for rich intellectuals, and I'm sure the museums will thrive.