‘We paint something because we want to remember’: Watch artist Song Dong honor impermanence with his vanishing works of art

Chinese-born artist Song Dong grew up using water to draw calligraphy on stones and then watching the characters disappear. This was the genesis of his ongoing project water log (1994–). In an exclusive interview shot as part of Art21 Extended game series, the artist recalls the importance of this project as a visual manifestation of his beliefs and his creative practice rooted in impermanence and collective memory.

Memory is an important part of our life” says the artist in the video.We paint something, we write something, because we want to remember it. So I thought maybe I could paint something with the first part gone before I finish the rest. Something that can’t actually be finished. It will always be a work in progress. »

Song began using sculpture, video, painting, and installation to address these themes in conceptual works of art, such as when he cataloged over 10,000 objects from his late mother’s home as a means of process his grief and document the material of his life.

“Some people believe that everyone has two lives and that we each die twice,” said the the artist says, explaining that the first death is the physical loss of life; the second is “when the last person in the world who knew you died and no one knows who you were anymore.

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series extended play, below.

This is an episode of “Art on Video”, a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips from artists who are making the news. A new season of the flagship series of the Art21 association Art in the 21st century is now available on PBS. Watch all episodes of other series, like New York close up and Extended gameand learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.

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