17 minutes





Working ‘like chopsticks’, two married artists create independently, in tandem

The husband and wife artists Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen consider themselves to be like chopsticks – existing independently, but operating in tandem. This metaphor is at the centre of their ongoing project ‘The Way of Chopsticks’ (2002-), which features sculptures and installations they’ve created based on a system of agreeing on a theme, working alone in secret, and then bringing the finished final products together for exhibition. Spanning some two decades, the project also charts the evolution of their relationship, including the entire life of their daughter Song ErRui, now a young adult, who has also become an artistic collaborator. And, as this short documentary from Art21 details, the churning of time and the transformations it brings permeates both their individual and collective oeuvres.

Surveying projects from ‘The Way of Chopsticks’ and beyond, the film explores how the couple’s art, while independently realised, is similarly inspired by the cycles of destruction, displacement and development that characterise modern cities. Especially prominent in their work is the incredible transformation of their native Beijing, where, over the course of their lives, the weathered beauty of the traditional hutong neighbourhoods has given way to monolithic, glass high-rises. From sculptures built from used clothing and scuffed window frames, to seductive edible cityscapes designed to be toppled and consumed, Song and Yin produce works that are instantly striking, but reveal complex layers when closely inspected or carefully considered. And, often working with recycled materials, Dong and Xiuzhen’s work strives to preserve memories – of loved ones and beloved places – that might otherwise be lost to time.

Video by Art21

Directors: Bryan Chang, Vicky Du