31 March 2012

"Waste not"

Quilters with their enormous stashes - "too much to use in a lifetime" - should visit an exhibition called "Waste Not". It's the accumulation of one Chinese woman, turned into art by her son - a project that started as a way of pulling his mother out of her depression after the death of her husband. She accumulated things for reasons that are much closer to the bone than ours - in a time of adversity, in a poor country, you used everything. "Wu jin qi yong": anything that can somehow be of use, should be used as much as possible. Every resource should be used fully, and nothing should be wasted.  
This is the fabric section of the exhibit.
Song Dong says "I remember, during my childhood, my mother always bought scraps of fabric to make clothes, because they didn’t need to be purchased with the government-distributed clothing coupons. Later, fearing a shortage of goods, she continued to collect them. They are still there, neatly folded in the wardrobe. This fear of shortage invariably led to the kind of lifestyle in which anything that could be kept wouldn’t be thrown away."
Among the bedding, a handmade patchwork quilt is kept carefully in plastic storage -
The exhibition is vast - 10,000 items. So much, so much... each item with its own story. On the left is a pile of soap, which you notice only after reading the mother's account of  how she struggled to have enough soap for washing (and how difficult it was to keep clothes clean); she saved soap so that her children wouldn't be without it -
So many birdcages!
The washboards make a lovely collection (I'd have taken them home with me) -
"Waste not" has travelled to many places and is at the Barbican till 12 June. Prepare to be amazed.


Alison Schwabe said...

Consider, too, 'hoarding', a debilitating psychological behaviour disorder which some in western societies (of plenty) today, including one family member and two friends, so have seen it close up, not just on Utube! and there's a total inability to throw anything away, empty cans bottles and packages included. Here in this installation there's a difference, but perhaps its also just a very fine line; this Chinese woman was motivated to be prepared for shortages of things she considered vital to living, understandable given her life situation.

Diane-crewe said...

I dont feel so bad about my "saving" stuff now !

Jane Housham said...

I'm definitely going to go and see this now. Thank you.