Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Things We Carry: Modern Artists Confront Compulsive Hoarding

By:  Sarah Kliff

Right now, in the Museum of Modern Art's second-floor auditorium, there is a pile of junk: empty toothpaste tubes, bottle caps without bottles, used Styrofoam containers, slivers of soap. Thousands of items—piles of clothes, pots, pans, toys, books—overwhelm the 3,000-square foot display space. Collectively, these items are a new installation, called "Waste Not," by Chinese artist Song Dong. But before these items were art, they were all the contents of the house of his mother, Zhao Xiangyuan. Zhao grew up during the Chinese Revolution, a time when the government ran massive campaigns emphasizing the values of frugality and thrift. She took the maxims to the extreme, wasting nothing, even a tattered pair of work boots that her son tried to throw away. As her children grew, she saved their tiny shoes and jackets. She saved used tea leaves and shopping bags, soda bottles and toothbrushes. Over fifty years, their small house outside Beijing came to resemble "a landslide with a path through it," says the installation's co-curator, Sarah Suzuki. So Song, a conceptual artist, made a suggestion to his mother: turn the contents of her home into an art exhibition, a way to explore his mother's life and the larger cultural forces that shaped it..."  More & video