Organised chaos

Artist Song Dong has managed to find a place for everything and everything in its place – that is, if hundreds of plastic bottle caps, soft toys, old televisions, rags, bags and general junk should have a place at all.

Waste Notan installation of over 10, 000 items, is currently featured at Sydney’s Carriageworks as part of the Sydney Festival from January 5 – March 17.

The installation has featured in prominent museums worldwide including the Barbican Art Galley, London, Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Carriageworks Visitor Services Coordinator, Natalie Dean, said the installation has experienced a flood of visitors since opening on January 5 with over 12, 000 people attending the exhibition in its first week.

“The installation is an important part of the Sydney Festival, offering visitors from all over the world the opportunity to experience a celebration of life and Chinese heritage from a unique perspective” said Ms Dean.

The items are structured in groups, aligned in rows, bound together in piles with string or stacked carefully according to size and shape in the following themes: live, eat, use and wear.

The massive installation takes up 1275 square metres of floor space

The massive installation takes up 1275 square metres of floor space

Carriageworks Visual Arts Curator Beatrice Gralton said the 10,000 objects in Waste Not  travel in two 40 foot shipping containers and 50 crates. The work is completely reconfigured each time according to the venue.

It took around three weeks to install. Song Dong’s family were involved, as well as a team of three art installers, two translators (who also work as installers) and a registrar” said Ms Gralton.

“Waste Not speaks of the experience of an entire generation in China, as well as the experiences of families around the world as a work about the connections between parents and children told through objects. It is both a portrait of Song Dong’s parents and a tribute to their lives and memory” said the curator.

The work is painstakingly documented by the artists sister, Song Hui, at each venue to ensure consistency and detail is preserved in every exhibition.

The boxes and suitcases that form part of the display are also used to transport the items, where small items are fit into boxes, arranged into crates and then packed into the shipping container – like a Russian matryoshka doll, one inside the other.

Visitors respect the sombre tone of the installation, but wander through the neatly organised frugality in awe of the sheer number of items and condition of the objects.

“I’ve finally found someone with more shoes than me” joked Betty Dargie, age 29, outside Carriageworks. “It’s an amazing collection, and a fascinating story – but who could possibly ever hope to use empty toothpaste tubes, or a broken lamp?” said Ms Dargie.

Interestingly, it is the venue currently exhibiting the work who funds transportation to the next location. It was unfortunate then for the prestigious Barbican museum in London that Australia was the next port of call for Waste Not, agreeing to foot the hefty freight bill for transport to the other side of the world.

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