Song Dong’s Smash


You can’t get more quotidian than Song Dong’s large photographic self-portraits, Eating Drinking Shitting Pissing Sleeping (1999). The listless affect is disturbed, however, by the fish-eye format, which summons a whiff of surveillance so universal as to exhaust both subject and voyeur. Similarly, Song’s videos first register as simple street scenes, until his beguiling actions rupture the workaday calm. In Broken Mirror (1999), passersby disappear behind a skewed rectangle reflecting other pedestrians. Suddenly a hammer enters the frame, as does its mirror image; the steel heads converge, shattering the mirror and reducing the frame to a single promenade littered with shiny shards and startled expressions. Burning Mirror (2001) features various urban settings wavering beyond a blurry plastic scrim, which also partially reflects the public spaces behind the camera. Song’s face appears in cloudy reflection, and then small flames begin licking the frame’s edges. As the fire spreads, the flexible mirror buckles and shivers, oily flairs of color blooming in the creases. Bits of scorched, coagulated plastic drop away to more clearly reveal unwitting protagonists bustling past, with only the occasional pedestrian snagged by the sight of this flaming proscenium. Eventually the prosaic scene is fully exposed, concluding Song’s witty optical drama with a few sooty tendrils rather than a closing curtain.

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