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INSIGHTExhibition Review Kate West’s quarterly review of the local arts scene

The Curve Song Dong Waste Not Until 12th June


he celebrated Chinese artist Song Dong has installed his vast work Waste Not in The Curve. The work is made up of over 10,000 household objects collected by Song Dong’s mother, Zhao Xiangyuan, over five decades. Her frugality and thrift were not only in accordance with the Chinese adage wu jin qi yong - in English ‘waste not’ - but were essential for survival in the period of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, when dealing with shortages was a way of life. Song Dong’s mother kept everything - bottle tops, empty toothpaste tubes, scraps of fabric - anything that she believed could have even the remotest potential for reuse. She stockpiled bars of cheap laundry soap and hoarded every toy and pair of shoes the family ever owned. Zhao Xiangyuan’s hoarding behaviour became even more marked after her husband’s death in 2002. What had started as a necessity became a disturbing way for Song Dong’s mother to cope with her grief. To help his mother to find a new purpose in life, Song Dong suggested that she work with him to make the contents of the family home a work of art. When this work was first shown in Beijing in 2005, Zhao Xiangyuan helped her son to install it. Outside the gallery Song Dong put a neon sign that read, ‘Dad don’t worry about us, Mom and our family are all doing well.’ (In this showing of the work the same neon sign is over the doors of the Silk Street entrance to the Centre). With that first installation all the seemingly pointless collecting and hoarding was finally given purpose and meaning. By making art of these objects Song Dong justified his mother’s actions. As Zhao


Xiangyuan said herself ‘Keeping those things was useful, wasn’t it?’ Song Dong’s mother died suddenly in 2009 and now when Song Dong reassembles this work he does so with the assistance of his sister and his wife. Each time they rediscover family objects, bringing back powerful memories and making this Song Dong’s most personal work. This is an exhibition about filial love, remembrance and memory. Seen in that light these random grubby objects are beautiful.

The Curve

Barbican Centre EC2 Daily 11am - 8pm

Thursdays late until 10pm Admission: Free

The Geffrye Museum of the Home

At Home With The World Until 9th September

Museum has a special exhibition which asks: how English are our homes? And that is English rather than British because the Geffrye focuses its collection and its research on the homes of the urban middle classes in England and particularly London. At Home with the World reveals just how cosmopolitan English homes have been for over 400 years and how many diverse cultures have shaped the way we decorate our living spaces. From Chinese porcelain in the 18th century to Islamic and Indian patterns in the 19th century, the importance of Scandinavian and American design in the 20th century to the global influences of the 21st century. The Geffrye’s wonderful period rooms will be reinterpreted to highlight these international


s part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme, the Geffrye

influences. Visitors can see how many familiar objects that we may think of as being English have in fact originated from distant lands. As we prepare to welcome the world to London for the Olympics it’s good to be reminded that we have been welcoming the world into our homes for centuries, we English may be islanders but it seems we have never been insular in our choice of domestic decor.

The Geffrye

136 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch E2 Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 5pm

Sunday & Bank Holidays Noon - 5pm Admission: Free www.geffrye-

Song Dong: Waste Not - Photograph by: Jane Hobson Courtesy

Barbican Art Gallery

Large circular earthenware dish designed by William de Morgan. 1888-1911 - Image credit: Geffrye Museum London

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