Archive draws on times past

Compiled by Gareth Pang

Artist Song Dong's solo exhibition invites members of the public to add their own touches to his personal sketches of recent history

Compiled by Gareth Pang |

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Song Dong's exhibition, 36 Calendars, featuring his personal views of the past 36 years, took him more than a year to prepare.
Contemporary exhibitions often challenge our understanding of art. Last week, our junior reporters joined Beijing-based artist Song Dong's participatory project to rewrite history. Co-presented by Asia Art Archive and Mobile M+, which is under the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, Song's project reinterprets the past 36 years with his illustrated calendars. He spent more than a year sketching the 432 pages as artist-in-residence at Asia Art Archive.

Artist Song Dong alongside the 36 calendars in his first solo exhibition in Hong Kong.

"My intentions in the 36-calendar project are based on very personal perspectives rather than objective and precise memories of the past," Song says. "The calendars document my encounters with different people, objects and events from 1978 to 2013."

His inspiration comes from wire-bound household wall calendars. Each month is accompanied by a sketch of a significant historical event and written memoir.

According to Song, the calendar itself has changed a lot through the years. It was a luxury in the 1960s, but became popular through mass production. However, in today's computer age, it is no longer significant.

"It was once a tool to mark time, but the old calendars are now archives of time," the artist says.

Janet Tam and Kent De Jesus

Junior reporters and members of the public add their own touches to Song's calendars during the exhibition.

Song's sketches cover historical events, pop culture and his own experiences. Some of the highlights include the image of the man standing in front of tanks during the crackdown in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Also included are personal milestones, such as his first solo exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, in New York, and singer Michael Jackson's death in 2009.

"When I found material connected to my personal growth, which was dear to me, I realised what an important role an archive plays in our lives," says Song. "It exists in both a visible and invisible form."

Yet this exhibition is not all about the artist. It is also about history as a collective memory. "As the world is defined by different concepts of time, everybody can have his or her own way to experience time," says Song.

Each participant was handed a pencil, paint box and brushes to add their own perspective to the artwork.

Jack Sze and Chu Ken-hong

Janet Tam with Song Dong's illustration of Hong Kong's "heavenly kings".

One of our junior reporters, Janet Tam, added colour and messages to an illustration of Hong Kong's "four heavenly kings", Andy Lau Tak-wah, Jacky Cheung Hok-yau, Aaron Kwok Fu-shing and Leon Lai Ming. These stars marked not only the golden era of Hong Kong music, but also had a big impact on Song in July 1992.

"It was a great experience to participate in an artistic event like this with a larger group of people," says junior reporter Kent De Jesus.

Jack Sze and Chu Ken-hong said they were surprised by Song's openness. They could add to or even erase bits of his artwork.

Song Dong: 36 Calendars is at ArtisTree, Quarry Bay, until February 8

Young Post organises regular activities for our junior reporters. If you wish to join, send your name, age, school and contact details to [email protected] with " jun rep application" in the subject field.