conceptual art

Song Ta

China 1988

Installation, Performance Art, Conceptual Art, Photography, Video Installation, Drawing

Song Ta
Song Ta
April 12, 2015

Song Ta is a young Chinese contemporary artist, known for his work that often intertwines systems of administration and bureaucracy with transparency and visibility, and tests boundaries between the institutional and commercial definitions of art. Song Ta was born in 1988 in Leizhou, Guangdong Province and graduated from the Painting Department of the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 2010.

Testing the Power of Institutions

In his practice, which includes photography, video, installation, painting, and performance, Song Ta uses the juxtaposition and linking of different relaxed, comedic forms to introduce modes of thought aimed at established institutions, knowledge systems, and power structures. Rooted in the artist’s observations of reality, Song Ta includes political discourses and symbols in his work in order to draw attention to viewers’ understandings of political thought and aesthetic standards. By not using common visual language or a clear conceptual focus, Ta Song is liberating viewers from weighty artistic discourse, and in that way is allowing the viewers to appreciate the light humor and mild political tone of his work. Enjoying the conceptual freedom that art allows him, the artist adopted relaxed, comical attitude in his variously playful, jocular, and self-amused research of reality. This research is also a sincere and serious inquiry – the absence of heavily stylized visual aesthetics in much of Song Ta’s work is rooted in the conceptual rejection of authority, but also in the concrete rejection of object ostentation that governs much of contemporary art creation, collection, and criticism.

The Gray Area of Bureaucracy

Song’s works are not merely expressions of an individual viewpoint – they grow out of specific investigations to present a more general notion of reality, site, and phenomenon. For his series of simple drawings which build up the monumental installation, titled Civil Servants, Song Ta explored into local government offices in his hometown in the Hokkien region of China, where he communicated with civil servants across different departments. This piece from 2009 comprised over 1,000 sheets of yellow A4 paper on which Song Ta had drawn caricatures of Chinese officials, accompanied by their personal data including private addresses and telephone numbers. Behind the piece lies an idea of demonstrating the limits of his power and theirs – the artist secured the only private information he possibly could, that of his hometown government, through a network of personal contacts.
In 2011, Song Ta continued his exploration and found a space to test the cracks of power in the same manner. His work Gray Area consisted of before-and-after shots, in which he persuades a local official to test the generally ignored rule that men in public office must not grow facial hair by letting his mustache grow until his bosses told him to shave it off.

The Loveliest Guy Exhibition – Exploring the Human Nature

Song Ta’s practice revolves around various investigations into different types of people, which is best exemplified in his most recent solo exhibition named The Loveliest Guy, held in 2014. In this three-piece personal show, Song Ta displayed works that are initially independent and unrelated. However, these artworks mask Song’s playful response to an expression of artistic systems and the logic of traditional artistic expression, by taking the visual aesthetics to their barest form.
The video installation Who Is the Loveliest Guy? is inspired by Wei Wei’s 1951 essay Who Are the Most Beloved People?. This work represents a three-channel looping video of a group of uniformed sailors in the Chinese navy on a roller coaster. During this high-speed, exciting journey, looking for the man the artist intentionally labels as “loveliest”, the viewer end up with nothing – or just suppress a smile.
In another exploration which carries its conclusion in the Chinese phrase “one’s writing mirrors the self”, Song Ta presents the photographs and calligraphy of 30 people whose handwritings look like his own. This work, titled People Who Write Like Me, consists of a collage of 60 images – some of these images were found through the internet, while others are made by people in the artist’s life.
For the artwork These Are Your Test Scores, and You’re Still Playing Around?, Song Ta collected 30 different elementary-school exam papers, each with the score 59.5% – just half a point under the passing grade of 60. The project emerged from Song Ta’s research into the exam papers of elementary schools in poor and remote mountainous regions, some of them populated by ethnic minorities. After conducting this research, the artist discovered that there are many people who share this “common fate”, projecting his coldly satirical intent evident in the work’s title.

The Public Factor in Song Ta’s practice

From the Gray Area to The Loveliest Guy, Song Ta’s artistic journey has taken him to museums, art fairs, nonprofit spaces, and commercial galleries. However, most of his public exhibitions pale in comparison to projects that circulate by word of mouth – often his art is completed when someone else declares it to be so.

Song Ta currently resides in Guangzhou, China.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2014Song Ta: The Loveliest GuyBeijing Commune, Beijing, ChinaSolo
2014The 10th Shanghai Biennale: Social FactoryShanghai Power Station of Art, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2014UnwrittenMarres Centre for Contemporary Culture, Maastricht, the NetherlandsGroup
2014The 8th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale 2014: we have never participatedOCT Contemporary Art Terminal, Shenzhen, ChinaGroup
2014Positive SpaceTimes Museum, Guangzhou, ChinaGroup
2014Don't Embarrass the BureauLunds Konsthall, Lund, SwedenGroup
2013Oridin of InequalityYangtze River Space, Wuhan, ChinaSolo
2013Difference EngineMagician Space, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2013Drawing—Expression and LimitArt Museum of Nanjing University of the Art, Nanjing, ChinaGroup
2013Home Works 6Ashkal Alwan, The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, Beirut, LebanonGroup
2013Video UnchainedAike-Dellarco, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2013Pessimism or Resistance?Taikang Space, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2013ON | OFF: China’s Young Artists in Concept and PracticeThe Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2012My Ten favorite DoctorsArrow Factory, Beijing, ChinaSolo
2012Alternatives to RitualGoethe-institute, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2012The First 'CAFAM Future' Exhibition: Sub-phenomena: Report on the State of Chinese Young ArtCAFAM, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2011Gray AreaObservation Society, Guangzhou, ChinaSolo
2010Papierarbeiten aus SüdchinaGalerie.Z, Bregenz, AustriaGroup