The Way of Chopsticks, a transformative, site-specific installation by Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen exploring generational and cultural shifts in contemporary China, will be on view at the Philadelphia Art Alliance from September 12 through December 29, 2013.
Created by two of China’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, the Philadelphia Art Alliance’s 2013 centerpiece exhibition will transform the historic Rittenhouse Square mansion into a three-story, multimedia installation that invites viewers to contemplate the similarities and differences between American and Chinese family life. The Way of Chopsticks is supported by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, The Mindspring Foundation, and The Asian Cultural Council.
Inspired by the PAA’s history as a private residence, Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen have collaborated with their 11-year-old daughter, Song ErRui, on an installation that will turn the historic Wetherill mansion into a three-story multimedia exploration of modern family life in China. The exhibition traces the evolution of family dynamics from the 1960s and ’70s China of the artists’ youth, when large families were the norm, to the increasingly globalized present day where only children, like their own daughter, are fast becoming the majority.
“Early in their lives, the artists grew up largely disconnected from the West; in the China of their childhood, families were large, and individuality was suspect,” says PAA curator Sarah Archer. “Their daughter’s 21st-century Chinese girlhood is vastly different: Song ErRui is bilingual in English and Mandarin, an avid basketball fan, and, thanks to her parents’ occupation, a sophisticated world traveler. The Way of Chopsticks addresses this fascinating generational divide with aplomb, referencing objects we encounter on the smallest cultural scale — the household — to explore a story that is shaping their entire nation.”
In addition to a free public opening reception (Thursday, September 12, 6-8 pm) and a series of artist talks, food tastings, gallery tours and family workshops (more details follow below), The Way of Chopsticks will be accompanied by a scholarly catalog including essays by Professor Eileen Boris, University of California–Santa Barbara; Professor Wu Hung, University of Chicago; Philip Tinari, Director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; and an interview with Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen by Philippe Vergne, Director of the Dia Art Foundation, New York.
About the Chopsticks Series
Since 2001, the Beijing-based artists have collaborated on a signature long-term conceptual art project that balances the importance of independence and partnership: they create singular large-scale chopstick sculptures, built according to certain agreed-upon parameters, but completed in isolation. Neither artist knows what the other will do until the final sculptures are revealed and joined together. The artists believe that chopsticks serve as an ideal metaphor for family: neither one can function, creatively or as parents, without the other.
Song Dong has been a prominent figure in the Chinese art world since the early 1990s when he first came to attention through performances such as Breathing. His practice embraces performance, installation, video and photography, but the references are always highly personal, based on his own life experience and that of his family. Recent important exhibitions include Waste Not (2009) based on his mother’s possessions accumulated over a lifetime and exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA); and The Wisdom of Poor People 2005-2011, exhibited at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), Beijing, in 2011.
Yin Xiuzhen was one of China’s first female artists to gain recognition in the early 1990s. Conceptually oriented and active in performance and installations throughout China and internationally, Yin Xiuzhen’s work concerns family and daily life experience in Beijing. Although she works in many media, she is widely recognized for her use of textiles as in Collective Subconscious at MoMA, New York in 2010, and Portable Cities (2001-present). She also represented China at the Venice Biennale in 2007.
The Way of Chopsticks: Song Dong ＋Yin Xiuzhen is represented by Chambers Fine Art in New York City and Beijing.
Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors and free for members.
Courtesy of the artists and the Philadelphia Art Alliance, for more information, please visit www.philartalliance.org or call 215-545-4302.