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  • Writer's pictureCristea Zhao

10. Touching My father Trilogy, 1997/2002/2011

Song Dong

Touching My Father, 1997,2002,2011

Performance, Photography, Video

This is a performance work expanded for fourteen years. The first time, Song recorded his hand moving around up in the air and then projected the image onto his father’s body; the second time, Song got to touch his body with his own hand, but this time lifeless. The video was recorded on the tape, realising it’s too heartbreaking to view the footages, Song sealed the tape box, determined not to open it again; the third time, eight years after father’s pass away, Song projected the last family video with his father in onto the water surface, touching the reflection of his father on the water.

After his early performance, Song is famous for his family theme works using family members as subjects. The linkage in his work between personal narrative and the grand narrative is very strong. Seemingly, it’s an intimate work about his own family, about redeeming Song’s personal relationship with father, but if tracing back, what cause the distance is the Chinese traditional norms of society, and the great social changes in the 20s. According to art historian Wu Hong, ‘The significance of this work (not waste) is in line with my definition of Chinese contemporary art - an art that often deploys the common tools of international contemporary art: installations, video, etc., but at its core is still about Chinese problems, a reflection on Chinese society by Chinese artists themselves. Through this project, we see the relationship between contemporary Chinese art and the family.’ (

I guess this is also the direction I am taking.

What inspired me is what Song said about ‘new media’. His definition of ‘new media’ is not restricted to new media technologies. For certain medium that you’ve never used it before, as long as you you find an appropriate language to express, this is viable, and this is ‘new media’. ‘For example, the third time I touched my father, I used a traditional medium like water to reflect, when it is still, it forms a mirror, which is also a very traditional medium, but in this way it can express my relationship with my father, and when he becomes a work of art, it conveys the meaning that is complex and emotional.’ (

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