The Art of Hoarding: Song Dong’s Waste Not Installation

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The current installation at Sydney’s Carriageworks gives a whole new meaning to the idea of hoarding.

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Waste Not by Chinese artist Song Dong is a huge collection of household and personal effects laid out across the large warehouse space.

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Made up of over 10,000 individual objects the installation explores the changing way of life experienced by the artists family during China’s cultural revolution.

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All these objects were accumulated by the artists mother who reused and repurposed everything she possibly could. For Song Dong’s family this was primarily a result of the great hardship they experienced during this time.

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After the death of Song Dong’s father in 2005 he suggested that his mother worked with him to transform these objects into a work of art as a way of dealing with her grief and freeing herself from material possessions.

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Song soon recognised the relationship his mother had with her belongings “my mother’s need to fill space with daily-life objects resulted from a need to fill the emptiness after my father’s death. I recognised that in this era of transition, a person could live through several different lives in just one lifetime. In the wink of an eye, one’s life could undergo great changes causing deep divisions between old and young.”

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The installation is particularly fascinating as it very representative of China during this time. Song Dong explains:

“Win jin qi yong (rendered as Waste Not in English) was not only the guideline for my mother’s life, but also portrays a whole generation of Chinese people. In the Chinese dictionary, the explanation of wu jin qi yong reads anything that can somehow be of use, should be used as much as possible. Every resource should be used fully, and nothing should be wasted”

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By including basic household items and even the skeleton of a house, the project invokes a certain nostalgia in people regardless of their origin. It allows you to connect with the memories of such material goods as symbols of family and childhood.

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The vast quantities of objects allow for a strangely soothing and surreal experience while catching a glimpse into the home of a stranger.

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