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Chinese sculptor brings edible art to London

By Angus McNeice in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-10-02 17:11
Chinese artist Song Dong, pictured here in London, has taken his edible sculptures to Shanghai, Beijing, London and Barcelona. [Photo by Angus McNeice / China Daily]

There was a tense moment at Pace Art Gallery in London on Monday evening when a member of the public put a fist through a sculpture.

Nervous onlookers took a beat, before joining in themselves, tearing down sections of the art work, and stuffing much of it in their mouths.

Within minutes the sculpture – a model city made out of an assortment of cookies and sweets – was reduced to edible rubble.

Through his Eating the City installation, Chinese contemporary artist Song Dong invites people to reflect on urban life while consuming his work.

"I am more than happy to see everyone eating up my art," said Song. "It's always fascinating to see how people respond to the process of ruining the city. When someone starts to eat the city, the power of destruction usually disseminates and everyone decides to follow that person and do something crazier."

Song has built his edible sculptures at several galleries around the world, and likes to source local confectionary when constructing the skyscrapers, stadiums, parks, and bridges that make up the pieces.

In London, visitors to the gallery snacked on Jammy Dodgers, Twix, wafers, and chocolate eggs, among other treats.

Ten volunteers from the art department at Goldsmiths University helped Song piece together the sculpture during three days, using up 30,000 cookies in total. Song said the use of food enables him to connect with audiences across cultures.

"Food means a lot to every family," he said. "There is a saying in Chinese, 'food is paramount to life'. By integrating food into my work, people in the audience are connected by common experiences."

Eating the City forms part of Song's exhibition Same Bed, Different Dreams, which continues at Pace Gallery until Nov 3. The exhibition is named after his largest sculpture, a beautifully lit tower of mirrors and window frames collected from abandoned homes. Inside the tower, household items and treasured possessions from a dozen families are arranged across a bed frame.

Song explores impermanence through his photographic collection Water Diary, in which he documents daily activities by writing on stone with water, only to watch his words evaporate.

Song once again investigates the cultural significance of food in his Edible Pen Jing series, in which he creates miniature landscapes with fish heads, salmon fillet and vegetables.

According to Song, Chinese contemporary art is increasingly tackling the themes of consumption and globalization.

"After 40 years of development of Chinese contemporary art, I think that it has formed its own unique set of values, ideas, and methodologies," he said. "China maintains a strong cultural tradition, though we are living in an era of globalization, where the world has become a small global village, so the fusion between different cultures is very extensive. I suppose that Chinese contemporary art is constantly moved forward by this development."

Lyu Zhenyi in London contributed to this story.

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