Song Dong @ Barbican Curve

The Barbican Curve presents a new iteration of Song Dong’s “Waste not” and it’s wonderful. What makes it special is the story behind it’s creation. It’s a monumental collection of over 10’000 objects hoarded by the artists mother throughout her life and subsequently after the death of her husband in 2002 (she herself died in an accident in 2009). The artist, his wife and sister continue to look after the collection and install iterations in galleries worldwide.

It was an piece created to offer focus and therapy to a loved one who lost someone. And now it’s a living growing artwork to signify the artists family, past, present and perhaps future. Song Dong talks about his wish for it to be an ongoing project, one that his children will continue after he has passed away. Curation becomes the subject not the context. It’s a single object with another purpose. Who could imagine that junk could become such a touching group portrait.

Hoarding is a hot subject at the moment. “Britain’s worst hoarders” is making a splash on Ch4, at the same time as this Barbican show. I have my other half to thank for introducing me to the reality TV version but i’m glad i saw it. It allows me to witness how a universal theme can be treated differently within culture.

The High Art version wins. Hands down. (i’m biased obviously). Song Dongs work will live on and touch people. Quick to be forgotten will be Keith the hoarder from Gravesend who refused to chuck out his dead dogs blanket. (although I do feel for him equally).

In the 90’s Emin made the junk filled bed autobiographical. But that was punky and brash. Song Dong has delivered this monumental artwork in a typically Chinese manner; Studious, modest and efficient. It doesn’t scream at you. A little piece of it hooks on to you forever.

I especially enjoyed the middle class tourist  who entered the curve and instantly declared “God! What has art come to!”. One patient gallery assistant proceeded to explain the story behind the work. The lady instantly looked a sheepish. Perhaps in those brief few moments she spent there, she considered her own mortality, and what will be left to remember her. I smirked like the smug arty git i am.

You’ve got till the 12th of June. Get a wiggle on.