Song Dong @ UCCA, Beijing

Song Dong
Wisdom of the Penniless: Living with the Tree
Song Dong is transforming UCCA into "the streets of Beijing" in a solo exhibition complete with hutongs, courtyards, wooden doors, furniture and all the trappings of our daily lives. A project six years in the making, Song Dong's Wisdom of the Penniless is a site-specific exhibition.

In his first solo exhibition at UCCA, leading Chinese artist Song Dong fills the exhibition halls and corridors with installations that reveal how ingenuity, frugality and neighborly values – what the artist terms "the wisdom of the poor" – have transformed our homes, streets, communities and lives. A project six years in the making, Wisdom of the Poor expands on Song Dong's widely-acclaimed installation in the Arsenale at this year's Venice Biennale.

Growing up in Beijing’s courtyards and alleyways, Song Dong was struck by how his friends and neighbors habitually “borrowed” from one another—trading not only their meagre possessions, but also jockeying for scant public space. Expanding a kitchen into a neighboring alleyway leaves enough room for passersby, while winning the family a few precious extra centimeters of living space; constructing a pigeon coop on a rooftop paves the way for the family to “build up later” by converting the pigeon coop into living or storage space. Song Dong’s installations symbolize the ingenuity with which people transform their personal living spaces, thereby altering the aesthetic of entire neighborhoods.

Concurrent with this solo show, UCCA also presents “Curated by Song Dong,” an exhibition featuring one of Song Dong’s “para-pavilions” and the work of Ma Qiusha and Wang Shang, two of the artist’s former students.