Philadelphia Art Alliance Blog

PAA Announces new grant from Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative!

Philadelphia, PA: The Philadelphia Art Alliance is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a $200,000 grant from the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, in support of a site-specific installation by Beijing-based artist Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen in 2013. Husband and wife Song Don and Yin Xiuzhen occasionally collaborate on artistic projects, creating sculptural installations using or referencing common materials and ordinary household objects. They are represented in New York City by Chambers Fine Art.

Song Dong Installing Waste Not at MoMA Photo by Scott Rudd

Song Dong is best known in the US for his work Waste Not, which was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in 2009. Waste Not was comprised of the contents of his mother’s house accumulated over the course of fifty years during a period of state-mandated austerity, and featured collections of objects such as plastic slippers, empty toothpaste tubes, plastic shopping bags, and other ephemera, all lovingly arranged with the care one might expect in the handling of rare and precious objects.

Yin Xiuzhen imbues her sculptures with a feminist point of view by using materials such as recycled clothing, fabric, and thread to create installations that address domesticity, women’s labor, and transience in contemporary China. Song and Yin came of age in the rapidly changing China of the 1980s and were deeply influenced by the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Both Song and Yin began as painters, and over the course of their careers, have investigated ways to make work that references domestic and cultural environments more literally: found objects, humble materials, and videos that capture moments from daily life.

Yin Xiuzhen Projects 92 at MoMA 2010

Since 2001, the artists have collaborated on pairs of chopstick sculptures which are created according to certain agreed-upon parameters, but completed in isolation. Neither artist knows what the other will do until the final sculptures are revealed. Chopsticks reference food and domesticity, and neither “stick” can function alone, thus (unlike a fork or spoon) they are an ideal metaphor for family. This thematic connection with home, family, and the passing of generations has inspired Song and Yin to respond to the PAA’s site, a former mansion, by creating six new pairs of chopstick sculptures, each with different variables they will determine during site visits. The installation will include a ten-channel video produced by Song Dong on the theme of childhood in contemporary China. The artists also plan to work with their daughter Song Er Rui, who will be eleven years old during the summer of 2013. Because the Chopsticks series began with Song’s recognition that the number “one” appeared twice in various important milestones-the death of his father, the birth of his daughter and the death of his mother-Song Er Rui’s age during this summer has symbolic resonance.

Above all, from Waste Not to The Way of Chopsticks, while Song and Yin’s work concerns materiality, it also addresses family and the marking of time through generations with physical objects. There is no richer metaphor for the passing of one generation to the next than the heirloom. The field of contemporary craft-both at its avant garde fringe and within its traditional heart-is powerfully connected to the home and the body. Studio jewelry, textiles and clothing, furniture and lighting all speak to daily existence and family life, and a particular consciousness of maintaining tradition while planning to pass on special and unique objects to one’s  children. Responding to the PAA’s domestic setting built in 1906, Song and Yin wish to create an array of works in response to the milestones in their own lives, and their impression of what the future holds for their daughter, in China and abroad.


The Philadelphia Art Alliance is dedicated to the advancement and appreciation of innovative contempoary art with a focus on craft and design, and to inspiring dynamic interaction between audiences and artists in a setting of historic and aestheitc significance.

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