Waste Not is a transformative installation of the full complement of worldly goods belonging to the artist's mother, Zhao Xiangyuan (1938--2009), including the wood frame of her house and over 10,000 everyday objects collected over a period of five decades. Carefully arranged in groupings throughout the gallery space, the objects form a miniature cityscape that viewers can navigate around and through. Song's mother was typical of the generation of Chinese who lived through the hardships of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s abiding by the dictum 'wu jin qi yong' (waste not): all resources should be squeezed for all their value and nothing be wasted. For the subsequent generation -- among them Song Dong and his sister Song Hui -- the result was a childhood surrounded by partially used bars of soap, buttons, books, assorted buckets, and scraps of fabric. Everything preserved as protection against future hardship, even in the face of improving economic conditions. Waste Not is a collaboration between the artist and his mother, initiated in an attempt to wrest her from grief following the death of his father in 2002. In the process of organizing and arranging the goods, the baggage of the past was unpacked and given a new life. Zhao's unexpected death in 2009 adds a special poignancy to the neon sign that reads, "Dad, don't worry, mum and we are fine."
Presented here for the first time in Denmark, the installation was transported from Moscow to Kunsthal Aarhus in a shipping container with over 50 crates, and took a fortnight for Song Dong and his sister to arrange on the floor of the lower gallery. The project was first displayed at Beijing Tokyo Art Projects in 2005, and subsequently has travelled to several major venues including: MoMA, New York; the Barbican Centre, London; the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver; Carriageworks, Sydney; and most recently Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, in 2013.
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