Exploring Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen: The Way of Chopsticks

Furniture (2013)

To visit the historic building of the Philadelphia ArtAlliance on a sunny day will no doubt offer any visitor an enjoyable experience. The building, with its large stained glass windows, tall ceilings, wooden paneling, and marble mantels, is aesthetically appealing to any eye. Yet, once Song Dong and Yin Xuizhen’s installations in The Way of Chopsticks are placed throughout the three-floor exhibition space in the building, one cannot deny a sense of exploratory excitement and intrigue.

Furniture (2013)
The visitor navigates the mansion room to room, with strategically placed objects and videos of Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen throughout. Objects are not only placed on the walls, but many are staggered throughout the center of the rooms, allowing the visitor to weave between and examine each work from all sides. On the first floor, household items and furniture are cut in half, allowing for each artist to recompose their own separate pieces. Song Dong does so through applying glass windows and mirror to the side which was cut, while Yin Xiuzhen does the same with stocking material. Each artist applies an element of transparency, allowing for the viewer to fully examine the incision. Additionally, the walls in these rooms are covered in window and mirrored panes from Song Dong, and a digital print depicting snow-filled tree branches from Yin Xiuzhen. This installation, titled Furniture (2013) is thought provoking and all consuming. The visitor becomes swallowed in imagery of isolation, memory, and domesticity. Although such themes can be a bit disturbing, the light pouring through the ceiling-high windows, filling the space and casting shadows behind the objects, provides an inviting aesthetic to the observer.
Furniture (2013)
I could have stayed in that room for the whole exhibition, but I moved on, climbing the stairs, discovering my own path through the doors that I chose to enter, for every visitor is presented with a different way to navigate. I encountered similar themes to that of the first floor throughout each room. Isolation, the desire for community, domesticity, and nostalgia are prevalent throughout each piece. The final floor of the exhibition plays Future, a 16-minute film where a divided screen portrays Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen’s 10-year old daughter, Song ErRui, encountering these similar themes. To place a child in such a solemn setting can only conjure comparisons in one’s own life to that in the film. Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen are able to pull from somber imagery the playfulness that every child possesses, and make a disparate situation become relatable.
Authority (2013)
Song Dong and Yin Ziuzhen’s works would prove to be compelling if placed in a white cube of gallery space. The Philadelphia Art Alliance mansion would be inspiring and provocative without any display of artworks. However, it is the combination of the artworks with the space, as well as the nature through which the visitor must navigate the exhibition and choose his/her path that proves this show to be individual, emotional, sensorial, provocative, and ultimately moving.