Dong, Breathing, Part 2 (1996). On a frigid New Year’s
Eve, Song Dong carried out a performance in Beijing’s Tiananmen
Square, for a century the site of historic public gatherings and demonstrations.
For 40 minutes he lay face-down, breathing onto the pavement until a thin
layer of ice formed beneath his mouth—a symbolic attempt to “breathe
new life” into a locale associated with the bloody events of June
1989. Presented as a large-scale lightbox-mounted color transparency,
this work is accompanied by an audiotape of the artist softly breathing.
The works in this section explore the contemporary legacy of China’s
past. Some artists, for example, update motifs drawn from the rich heritage
of Chinese art. Still others examine the consequences of such recent historical
moments as the Cultural Revolution, a period of traumatic upheaval that
many of the artists experienced in their childhood.