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Song Dong Shatters the Illusion in TImes Square

In Broken Mirror, Chinese conceptual artist Song Dong destroys one reflective scene to reveal another, shattering the viewer’s conception of reality and juxtaposing China’s modern cityscape with its traditional landscape. Using a succession of images, the artist exposes a rapidly modernizing China and explores notions of transience and illusion in contemporary society. From September 26 through November 30, 2005, Creative Time and Panasonic present one-minute video segments from Broken Mirror on The 59th Minute: Video Art on the NBC Astrovision by Panasonic. Situated in the cacophony of the newly reinvented Times Square, the artwork encourages the New York onlooker to search for parallels in his own culture and reflect on their own changeable environment.

Watching Broken Mirror, the viewer is at first duped into thinking he is seeing nothing more than a foreign street scene and, like the passersby in the film, he too expects only to give the piece a momentary thought. Yet seconds before he turns away a hammer appears and fragments the seeming reality, revealing what actually stands before Song, and beyond what the viewer sees in the mirror. The opposing images are visually pitted against one another, demonstrating the proximity of the antiquated and the modern in our rapidly evolving cities and the vulnerability that lies beneath the facade. Song’s act of destruction brilliantly exposes the struggle of Beijing Culture to maintain its traditions despite inevitable urbanization.

Special Performance: Writing Time with Water

October 17, 2005 12 – 1 p.m.
Times Square (Broadway and 44th Street)

In collaboration with Times Square Alliance, Creative Time presents a special performance by Song Dong. For one hour, amid the crowds of tourists and workers weaving in and out of Times Square, Song Dong will continuously record the time using water and brush to paint directly onto the concrete surface that surrounds him. Within this hurried setting, Song Dong’s modest gesture compels us to focus on the present by exposing our unthinking consumption of time. Writing Time with Water is a compelling example of Song Dong’s interest in context and ritual. The performance stems from the artist’s ongoing series, Writing Diary with Water. For the past decade, Song Dong has employed a calligraphy brush dipped in water, rather than ink, to document his daily reminiscences on stone. The hand-drawn text lasts for just a fleeting moment before it evaporates with the steam that arises from the hot stone’s surface. This practice allows Song Dong to keep his thoughts and musings secret, while at the same time, provides the mental release inherent in traditional diary keeping.

The Artist

Song Dong was born in Beijing in 1966. In 1989, he graduated from the fine arts department at Capitol Normal University, Beijing. Due to the insolvent conditions that lead him to create conceptually based art, he and others of his generation fall into a practice identified by art critic Gao Minglu as ‘apartment art’. Past works such as Breathing (1996) and Touching My Father (1998) examine his own experience of Taoist philosophy existing in an increasingly Westernized Beijing. Recent exhibitions include Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China (2004-2006) at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and Oalors, a chine: Chinese Contemporary Art (2003) at the Center Pompidou in Paris. His work was presented at the 2004 Sao Paolo Biennale in Brazil and the 2003 Istanbul Biennale. Song Dong’s video work, Burning Photograph is featured in Creative Time’s group exhibition, The Plain of Heaven from October 14 - November 20, 2005 (820 Washington Street @ the end of the High Line) Exploring the subject of creation through destruction, the video runs in reverse and slow motion, allowing the flames of the burning tourist photograph to constitute the image rather than destroy it. The work also references the traditional tourist photo by illustrating the ways in which we reinvent our experiences of place through nostalgia.

The 59th Minute and Creative TIme

Between 2000 and 2005, the 59th Minute: Video Art on the NBC Astrovision by Panasonic presented a unique opportunity for video art to be viewed within the world’s most famous media capital: Times Square.

The 59th Minute aired the last minute of every hour of the Astrovision programming day (6 am–1 am) with the exception of two daily preemptions from 7-10 am and 6-7 pm.

Beginning in 2000 with a special screening of Tibor Kalman’s “Tiborisms,” The 59th Minute has been a consistent platform for the presentation of new and historic video by both emerging and established artists. The 59th Minute’s goal is to offer artists a special opportunity to present their work in a remarkable public space.

Song Dong’s Broken Mirror is the 22nd artwork in the series that has featured both emerging and established local and international artists. The series has since featured work by the artists Tibor Kalman, Marco Brambilla, Fischli & Weiss, William Kentridge, Bruce and Norman Yonemoto, Jeff Gibson, Gary Hill, Genvieve Cadieux, Mary Lucier, Michael Snow, William Wegman, Thomas Struth, Jeremy Blake, Marina Zurkow, Scott Paterson, Julian Bleecker, Janaina Tschape, Hiraki Sawa, The Neistat Brothers, Günther Selichar, Carlos Amorales, and Kimsooja.

Between 2000 and 2005, the 59th Minute aired daily in Times Square on the NBC Astrovision by Panasonic on the last minute of every hour from 6:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m., except between 7:00 – 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. at 45th Street and the intersection of Broadway and 7th Avenue.


The NBC Astrovision by Panasonic is the visual centerpiece of New York City’s Times Square, the “Crossroads of the World.” Measuring nearly three stories high and four stories wide, the screen, which contains 1.5 million light-emitting diodes (LEDs), is capable of displaying more than one billion shades of color. Each year, millions of people see the Astrovision either on television, in the movies, or when they visit Times Square. And every New Year’s Eve, the landmark video screen helps more than 500,000 Times Square revelers count down the famous ball drop. Panasonic is the best known brand of New Jersey-based Matsushita Electric Corporation of America, which is the principal North American subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (MEI) (NYSE: MC). Additional information can be found by visiting www.panasonic.com.


Broken Window was presented by Creative Time and Panasonic on the NBC Astrovision Screen by Panasonic in Times Square. Creative Time and Times Square Alliance presented Writing Time With Water.

Creative Time is funded through the generous support of corporations, foundations, government agencies, and individuals. This program was made possible, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency; New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, New York City Council Member Christine C. Quinn; and State Senator Thomas K. Duane. Special thanks to Christophe Mao and Chambers Fine Arts.

For more information, please visit www.creativetime.org.

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