Comprising over 10,000 household possessions, Waste Not is a tribute to Song Dong’s mother, Zhao Xiangyuan, who made this extraordinary collection over a period of five decades. The activity of saving and re-using objects of all kinds is in keeping with the Chinese adage wu jin qi yong – waste not.
Song Dong’s mother died suddenly in 2009, but each time Song Dong remakes the work – assisted by his sister, Song Hui, and his wife Yin Xiuzhen – memories are rekindled and personal family objects are rediscovered. In each iteration of Waste Not (the Barbican installation is the eighth) the objects vary slightly, as different possessions are re-discovered and others kept back.
Even the overall layout of each installation of Waste Not varies – at the Barbican, the shape of the gallery presented Song Dong with the opportunity to create a landscape of discovery; as you walk amongst the family possessions following the building’s curve, more of the exhibition reveals itself. Small groups of objects fascinate; the perfect folded triangles of saved plastic carrier bags; a collection of paintbrushes; tied bundles of fabric scraps and the patched and worn dining chairs. Well-loved soft toys are presented on a mountain-like range of saved cardboard boxes and polystyrene packaging. Many of the objects are dirty, broken, faded or rusty, but nothing feels like rubbish. Waste Not is a touching and poignant show; a story of shared family endeavour, love, loss and eventual order amongst chaos.
See more images and a full review on FADwebsite.
Song Dong: Waste Not
The Curve, Barbican Art Gallery, London
15 February – 12 June 2012