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Posts Tagged ‘Carriageworks’

… a post for Roz and John …

I’ve struggled to find the words to describe this art installation by Chinese artist Song Dong. It forms part of the Sydney Festival, and has been set up in Carriageworks at Eveleigh.

I’m not sure it’s a piece that would appeal to everyone. At first glance, it appears to be a cross between art and a huge garage sale.  Truly appreciating the installation requires some understanding of the story behind it – the political turmoil in China which drove the artist’s mother to excessive frugality, the traumatic and sudden death of his father which exacerbated her compulsion to hoard, and how his creation of this piece helped her to find peace.

I photographed all the descriptive text accompanying the piece as it’s a great read – if you’re interested, please click on the photos below and a larger copy will open up in a new window (then click a second time for a further enlargement)…

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The artwork is made up of over 10,000 items collected and stockpiled by the artist’s mother.  Growing up during the harshest period of communist China, and having suffered major turmoil as a young girl, she learned to deal with the ever present threat of shortage by never discarding anything that might be of future use.

Even years later, when such hoarding was unnecessary, she was unable to stop – as I walked through the installation, I wondered if it was her own way of guarding against the unpredictability of life and death…

At the centre of the room stands the skeleton of one of the family’s original homes…

Even shards of broken pottery were stored away for possible reuse…

Piles of rags – used to sew clothing which would otherwise require government-issued coupons to purchase…

A large collection of plastic bags…

Several old record players highlighted the marked absence of machinery – no washing machine, dryer, dishwasher or any other modern convenience, apart from a couple of old television sets…

Plastic bottles were cleaned and stockpiled – I was told the artist’s mother would often use the lids for buttons…

The story behind the large stack of soap is particularly poignant (please click on the text below for more information), providing an insight into both the mind of the artist’s mother, and the labour-intensive life she lived as a young adult. She was so afraid that her family would have to do without soap that she hoarded these cakes for over forty years, planning to pass them on to her children when they married.

It gave me enormous appreciation for the modern age in which we live, where we can throw clothes into a machine and come back an hour later to find them clean…

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. . . . .

Waste Not, by Song Dong, will be on display in Carriageworks at Eveleigh until 17 March 2013.  I found the exhibit and its associated history extremely moving. Entry is free.

Dad and Mum, Don’t Worry About Us, We are All Well,  a survey of Song Dong’s work over the past three decades, is on display at the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in Haymarket until 30 March 2013.

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