Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Waste Not" Exhibition at the Art Gallery

In a world of consumerism and greed, want and need, the artist Song Dong's piece "Waste Not" portrays a culture that thrives on its possessions. Bars of half used soap, balls of twine, dirty water basins, forgotten childhood dolls, all became a work of art, and an act of healing for his family who lost their father.

Frugality is a virtue for Chinese culture, so growing up in a home where every item had the ability to be used, reused and recycled as something new, made it hard to throw away your day to day household items for fear that they might be someday useful. "Anything that could some how be used, should be used as much as possible" states Dong of an entire generation of Chinese people.
The collection at hand came together as an act to pull his mother out of depression after their fathers death, when a need to keep everything in case of use, became an obsession. Song Dong was able to give his mother a space to be an artist, with a decades worth a collections. This allowed her to have a job and a purpose for all the stuff she wanted to find a reason to keep, thus bringing happiness into her life once again.

"Keeping those things was useful, wasn't it", she gladly tells her son, as if an end to her collecting madness has come full circle. With this exhibit they now have the space to start anew, as a decade of used items have come out of their home, and into their new purpose as art. 

Walking through piles of thoughtfully placed and organized articles of ones life in material form allows you to look at your own possessions which we horribly label our "stuff". Especially this time of year, an exhibit like this speaks to each of us who filling their Christmas tree skirts with brightly wrapped surprises, only to later be broken, lost, forgotten, or worst of all un-used.

I am as guilty as the next person on this front, although maybe this is a lesson for us all to find the hidden presents in the items that have already seen their way around the block a couple of times, or that will withstand the test of time. I encourage you to give the gift of experience, as our memories are something that we can carry with us and don't take up space in our landfills once they have lost their purpose in our lives.

Song Dong's exhibit is being showcased at the Vancouver Art Gallery until January 16th.

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