Mandala City for Eating, 2017
Food is a recurring element in the work of Song Dong. On different occasions Song Dong has been building models of fictional cities made out of cookies, biscuits and candies. The cityscape of a city turned into a sweet utopia. For the occasion of Kathmandu Triennale the artist made a city in the form of a mandala with biscuits, wafers and candy. At the end of its completion the mandala is swept away by visitors of the exhibition who eat the edible city. During the exhibition an empty plinth with leftovers becomes a witness to the eating event. On two screens, the whole performance of ‘Mandala City for Eating’ is documented.
Song Dong, a Chinese contemporary artist, active in sculpture, installations, performance, photography and video has been involved in many solo and group exhibitions around the world, covering a range of themes and topics including his relationship with his family and their experience of living in modern China (the topic of his widely exhibited installation Waste Not), the transformation of China's urban environment and the impermanence of change. Song Dong was born in Beijing in 1966 to a family that was once prosperous but was reduced to poverty by China's repeated upheavals. His father Song Shiping was caught up in the Cultural Revolution and was one of the millions of Chinese people sent to a re-education camp for supposedly being a "counter-revolutionary".
Several of Song Dong's works have conveyed a theme of the impermanence of change, highlighting the way that although a single person could effect a minor change it could only have a fleeting impact. In 1995 he began writing a daily diary on a flat piece of stone using clear water rather than ink, so that the letters would disappear as he wrote them. He subsequently visited Tibet, where he photographed himself striking the Lhasa River with an old-style Chinese seal. The following year, he visited Tiananmen Square in Beijing on a freezing New Year's Eve to create the piece Breathing, showing himself lying face-down on the ground for 40 minutes until his breath had created a temporary sheet of ice on the pavement. He repeated the same thing on a frozen lake in a Beijing park that made no impression on the existing sheet of ice.
Both Song and Yin have made Beijing itself a major subject of their work. As the historic city has been progressively demolished to make way for modern buildings, the pair have retrieved fragments of the razed buildings to make artistic installations from them. Song highlighted China's dramatic transformation through a series of edible installations called Eating the City that were staged between 2003–06 in Barcelona, Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Oxford and Shanghai.
Song's relationships with his parents have also been a recurring theme of his work. Touching My Father, created in 1997, tackled his distant relationship with his father (who died in 2002). It consists of a video in which Song's own hand, superimposed over a film of his father, appears to stroke him. More recently, he created the installation Waste Not displaying over 10,000 household items from the home of his late mother, whose extreme thriftiness led her to obsessively hoard anything that could possibly be re-used. As of 2012, it has so far been displayed in eight cities around the world.