Song Dong's 'Waste not' exhibition

Posted on June 13, 2012 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

The problem with London is that there are too many cultural activities going on all the time, so it's hard to keep up sometimes. I almost missed the mesmorizing 'Waste not' exhibition by Chinese artist, Song Dong at the Barbican Centre, it was luckily that I managed to catch it at the last minute. It has been a long time since I felt genuinely moved by an art exhibition, and it made me think hard about my own family 'junk' issue!

The exhibition comprised over 10,000 household possessions, collected by the artist’s mother, Zhao Xiangyuan over a period of five decades. Zhao started collecting at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution as a means of survival, but gradually these objects took over her life, fulfilling the emptiness that she suffered after the death of her husband in 2002.



The initial installation was created in 2005 by Song Dong, installed with his mother as a way to help her cope with her grief and put her memories in order. Tragically, Zhao died in a car accident in 2009, but Song’s family would reunite and work on the installation as it travels and exhibits around the world.

Personally, I have also been dealing with the huge collection of ‘stuff’ that my family has accumulated over the years. Like Zhao, my mother doesn’t like to throw things out, she often claims that these objects would be useful one day especially like jam jars, plastic containers, used envelopes and old magazines etc. Some of the items that I discovered during a clearance recently could be considered as museum pieces!

While many of us get attached to items that have sentimental value, I failed to understand my mother’s persistence in keeping the ‘useless’ objects until this exhibition…

I am sure that most visitors to the exhibition can somehow relate to the story behind because it is not so much about art, but about human emotions, family bonds, memories and nostalgia that we all share regardless of our nationalities, ages, gender and backgrounds.


This post was posted in London, Exhibitions, Art, Chinese art and was tagged with London, art and design exhibitions, Chinese art, Barbican