Song Dong’s Waste Not at the Barbican

Waste Not, an installation that gathers over 10,000 everyday objects collected by Song Dong’s mother over a period of five decades, reflects on the Chinese artist’s childhood during the Cultural Revolution. Waste Not is at the Barbican Art Gallery, London EC2, from 15 February to 12 June. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

Song Dong's Waste Not at the Barbican
Song Dong’s Waste Not installation in the Curve at the Barbican Art Gallery, London.

Song Dong's Waste Not at the Barbican
The installation includes chairs, tools and plant pots

Song Dong's Waste Not at the Barbican
…and several portable televisions.

Song Dong's Waste Not at the Barbican
The installation is a meditation on the artist’s childhood during the Cultural Revolution.

Song Dong's Waste Not at the Barbican
The art of saving and re-using things is in line with the Chinese principle of wu jin qi yong – ‘waste not’.

Song Dong's Waste Not at the Barbican
It is a prerequisite for survival during periods of social and political turmoil.

Song Dong's Waste Not at the Barbican
Song Dong’s mother Zhao Xiangyuan collected the objects over a period of five decades.

Song Dong's Waste Not at the Barbican
She died in an accident in 2009.

Song Dong's Waste Not at the Barbican
Each time Song Dong remakes the exhibition, with the help of his sister Song Hui and his wife Yin Xiuzhen, the entire family is brought together again.

Song Dong's Waste Not at the Barbican
Memories are rekindled and personal family objects are rediscovered, bringing powerful emotions to the fore.

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