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Song Dong: Waste Not at the Barbican Centre

BY Boon Koh
Published 9 April 2012

If you’re ever told that you have way too much stuff and are a borderline hoarder, then this is an exhibition to visit to erase any self-doubt in your mind, and to bring that “friend” along to prove them how wrong they are. For Song Dong’s Waste Not exhibition will open your eyes to a true hoarder.

This exhibition at the Barbican Centre, running until the 12th June 2012, really strikes home to what consumers we are all. We might not see it, buying a little bit yesterday, a little bit more today, but Song Dong’s Waste Not exhibition reveals a mother’s instinct to keep everything that had passed through her house. And if Song Dong’s mother managed to save all these 10,000 plus items during the Cultural Revolution in China, then imagine what must be in the houses of the West, who lived through the consumer boom of the 80s and 90s. Through the hundreds of plastic bottles, cups & plates, and even leftover bits of cloth tied up into little bundles, one can’t help but wonder how many shoes, forks, paper bags, and toys passes through one’s life and ended up in a landfill somewhere.

Song Dong: Waste Not means different things to different people who visit the exhibition, and sometimes, evokes a myriad of emotions as you walk along the almost never ending corridor lined with objects on both sides. There might be disbelief – how can someone keep and store so much in a home, to nostalgia – spotting some of the toys or household objects that one used to have (or maybe still keep!) at home.

For me there were also feelings of pity and recognition of the hard times during the Cultural Revolution – the piled up bars of soap the most symbolic message about how everyday household objects that we take for granted might be so precious in another world.

Although over the years, I’ve been told off by various people from mothers to boarding school house masters to my current fiancée how I keep too much useless junk at home, but Song Dong: Waste Not has struck a cord in my heart that I might need to make sure I don’t end up like his mother. But sometimes, even everyday objects can take on sentimental value, and as I am sure Song Dong is well aware of, simple objects from another time evoke emotion and memories from a time past.

Song Dong: Waste Not is a free exhibition at the Barbican Centre until the 12th June 2012. No tickets or advanced booking necessary to view the exhibition, and photography is allowed.

  • http://www.twentysomethinglondon.com/ Rachel

    wow, that is a lot of stuff that’s been collected