Chinese artist puts his mother’s possessions on display at the Barbican

It may not be to everyone’s taste, but those with a penchant for unusual art could be tempted to come to London to see the latest work by Chinese artist Song Dong.

The avantgarde installation artist’s new project, which features thousands of mostly junk items collected by Song’s mother Zhao Xiangyuan over five decades, went on display at the Barbican on Tuesday (February 14th).

Just some of the 10,000 items that comprise the piece include ten umbrellas, 16 chairs, three ancient radiators, innumerable medicine bottles and old boxes of tea, reports the Guardian.

The work is entitled Waste Not in reference to the slogan that was used frequently by Chinese leaders during the cultural revolution, which led to the population keeping everything they owned in case it could prove useful at a later date.

Just a short journey away for those staying at hotels in Park Lane, a trip to the Barbican Centre to see the work is recommended for anyone looking to gain a unique insight into this aspect of China’s history and its impact on the lives of everyday people.

Speaking to the Guardian, Jane Alison, senior curator at the Barbican, said Waste Not is “so personal and poetic … it helps us to understand the reality of Chinese history and culture in the 20th century in a way that newspapers can’t”.

Song first exhibited the work in 2005 at the Tokyo gallery in Beijing after his mother’s hoarding was driven to a new level due to the depression she suffered following the death of her husband three years earlier.

“So many people came who had a similar life during the cultural revolution and talked to my mother for half a day at a time,” he told the newspaper. “They told her: ‘It’s not your home, it’s my home.’ It got my mother out of her sadness – she said she had a second life.”

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