Song Dong’s ‘Doing Nothing’ Exhibit on Display at Pace Gallery

Do you find art compilations that span several years of an artist’s career fascinating? If so, Song Dong’s new two-venue exhibit, “Doing Nothing,” may interest you. The contemporary Chinese artist features an exhibit that compiles two decades of his most promising work, a mixture of his performances, photographs, videos, and installations made between 1994 and 2012.


Song Dong emerged as a leading artist in Chinese contemporary art in 1989, and many of his works are completed in collaboration with his wife and fellow artist Yin Xiuzhen. His works are multi-layered and integrated, and generally encompass performance, installation, video, sculpture, painting, and calligraphy in single works of art. Dong’s work may be of particular interest if you are entranced by China’s urban culture and political climate. He incorporates a number of themes relating to Chinese society in his artwork including ideas of waste and consumption, the transformation of China’s urban environment, and the value of self-expression. If you study history as a hobby, you might also be interested in the Taoist themes of non-action and non-intention, concepts and arguments relating to natural order and living a humble lifestyle.

He often uses these themes to not only express the political, economic and cultural realities of living in China, but also in a larger global context. The overarching theme of his exhibit is expressed in the catchphrase of his compilation: “That left undone goes undone in vain; that which is done is done still in vain; that done in vain must still be done.”

The particular works of art on display include one of his earliest pieces, entitled “Breathing,” in 1996, in which he lays on the stone pavement of Tianenmen Square and used his own breath to create a pad of ice on freezing ground. The performance is designed with memorializing the events of Tianenmen Square and highlighting it as a symbol of power. Another performance, “Throwing a Stone,” was one Dong began in 1994, in which he writes on a single stone, throws it at a great distance, walks to retrieve it, and repeats the process until he loses the stone. The overwhelming concept of these performances revolves around human action.

The exhibit will be on display through March 2 at the Pace Gallery in New York.