Thursday, January 13, 2011

Song Dong's mum

The other day we visited the Vancouver Art Gallery and I was really struck by this installation. I have hoarding tendencies, which I had to defy when we cleared our lives of lots of things to move to the other side of the world. I'd like to try and live a lot more minimalistically from now on but I think it's going to take a bit of work. This exhibit scared me - to think that I have the tendencies to collect this much. And yet it was beautiful. Generations past (like my grandparents) have stuck by the motto "waste not, want not". They've been through difficult times and learnt to be ingenious, thrifty and unbelievably resourceful. Another extreme is the "throw-away" attitude prevalent today. There has to be a mid-point somewhere. This really made me think.

Quote from Vancouver Art Gallery website. All photo's sourced here.
"Song Dong’s monumental installation Waste Not is a collaboration between the artist and his mother, Zhao Xiangyuan. The installation comprises the frame of his mother’s house along with all of the everyday objects she meticulously collected over the course of her lifetime: a collection of over ten thousand worn and broken objects, each one with unlimited potential value. Together, the assembled materials—clothes, books, kitchen utensils, toiletries, school supplies, shopping bags, rice bowls, dolls—were used, recycled, and saved. Meticulously arranged in careful groupings throughout the exhibition space, the objects form a miniature cityscape that viewers can navigate around and through.

Waste Not—or wu jin qi gong in Chinese—describes the philosophy of life for a generation of people in China, of which Song Dong’s mother was a part, who grew up during the Cultural Revolution with the experience of displacement, poverty and the constant shortage of goods. The installation stands as a record of his mother’s life, as well as a tribute to his father’s death."
Along a similar theme I came across this fascinating book at the library of the Emily Carr University of Art and Design at Granville Island: OBSESSIVE CONSUMPTION.
obsessive consumption side on
Author/artist Kate Bingaman Burt documents her daily consumption over 3 years in this illustrated book. Everyday sundry items such as parking tickets, packs of gum, shoes, electricity bills and burritos sketched alongside their price. It really is astounding laid out like that to see how much we consume. How much our identity comes from what we consume. And yet in a beautiful way each of those items "tells a story" Kate describes. Here are a few recent examples from her flickr.
01.08.11 / Ginger Ale Six Pack
01.10.11 / a bunch of paint brushes
I love how simple and clear her images are. Do you have any thoughts on saving, hoarding, throwing-away or consuming?


  1. Wow! Just wow. That exhibit is stunning! But also a bit horrifying. Or perhaps just confronting, (even for non-hoarders).

  2. YES. I do have thoughts. This is a really timely post (this post, and about one hundred other things in my life that are saying GET RID OF STUFF.)

    This post sums it up a little. I am currently on a journey of getting rid of things and properly looking after what I do own. It's addictive and fun and I'm LOVING IT.

  3. Hi Sharolyn, I caught this exhibition early this month when I was visiting Vancouver. Was totally blown away and amused by it because it is SUCH a Chinese thing to hoard and save up stuff. My eldest aunt has a similarly disturbing hoarding habit, her fridge is a house of curios! By the way, its "wu jin qi yong" (the chinese saying for waste not). Cheers and yes I was a student at USQ, so my heart also ached when I saw the floods in Toowoomba and Brizzy. Horrifying!!

  4. I know, isn't it Katherine! Lauren, I read that post and loved it! Thanks I'll follow more of them now.

    V, I really appreciate your insights. I think I may be part Chinese even though I wasn't aware of it until now. Thanks for popping by!


Thank you for visiting and for your comments and thoughts, it is really lovely to hear from you.