Born at the start of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, the first English sentence Chinese conceptual artist Song Dong learned was "Long Live Chairman Mao". The slogan used to terrify him because his teacher, who taught physical education rather than English, pronounced it so badly it sounded like "the wolves are coming" in Putonghua.
This was one of the amusing childhood memories Song shared with a group of South China Morning Post readers on Saturday at his first solo exhibition in the city, 36 Calendars, at ArtisTree. Co-presented by the Asia Art Archive and Mobile M+ of the West Kowloon Cultural District, it is Song's response to the interpretation of the Mayan calendar that the world would end on December 21, 2012. When it didn't happen, he decided to mark this "new beginning" with an exhibition of memories from the past 36 years, using calendars as the medium.
He said calendars were a symbol of power and wealth on the mainland when he was a child in the 1960s and 70s. "Then, when China opened up economically in the 1980s, calendars became more common - and beautiful. They started to feature photographs of movie stars and scenic locales."
Although calendars are not as important today, some people still give them as gifts: "If you look at the development of the calendar, you also see part of contemporary Chinese history."
36 Calendars runs until February 8 and will continue online at www.aaa.org.hk