Installing the Art Work
Waste Not is comprised of about 10,000 objects that arrived at the Vancouver Art Gallery during September 2010 in 50 large wooden crates. Individual items were packed in cardboard boxes which when emptied were stacked along the edges of the galleries to became part of the installation. Maneuvering these crates from offsite storage to the gallery and then back again according to a precise work schedule was itself a major organizational effort steered by the artist’s sister, Song Hui (who also manages Song Dong’s studio), together with the museum’s Registrar, Jenny Wilson.
This art work is about the relationships that Song Dong activates in the making and re-making of this monumental work: it was prompted by his Father’s death, it is a tribute to his Mother’s life, it involves family members such as his sister, Song Hui, and his wife, the artist Yin Xiuzhen, in re-situating Waste Not at each new location. Consequently, the work not only emits the personality of the Song family with which it is infused, equally, it speaks to the larger history of culture that is imbedded in the meaning of individual objects.
At the Vancouver Art Gallery, the art work was installed in half of the second floor of the museum using 3 sequential galleries, including what is commonly referred to as one of the ‘high wall’ spaces that offers spectacular views from above. Song Dong chose to begin the installation in the first gallery with objects that relate to his father, such as medication, tools and various hand-made items. The second large/high space featured the family home and a myriad household objects that evoke his mother including her living room couch (where she presided in previous installations before her recent death). The third gallery was devoted to an assortment of things that belonged to the extended family, from grandparents, aunts/uncles, to Song Dong’s generation and their next of kin.
Once the thematic focus of each gallery was determined, Song Dong marked the pathways that would eventually guide visitors through the installation, these narrow trails being the only floor space devoid of objects in the finished work. The house frame was the first to be erected, followed by the placement of large pieces of furniture, then the endless and careful arrangement of individual objects according to type. A large blue neon text in Chinese characters was installed in the Gallery’s exterior Georgia Street windows, with a phrase that translates into “Daddy, don’t worry, Mom and the kids are OK,” (so as to be visible to his deceased father from the heavens above.) The family was assisted in this hugely time-consuming and exacting endeavour by the translator Jane Chia-Chen Hsu and an installation team of three, led by Lead Preparator Rory Gylander. The installation period was one of the Gallery’s longest and the work took 3 full weeks to complete.
We wish to acknowledge the Tokyo Gallery for their role in realizing this project in its first incarnation in Beijing in 2005 when it was curated by Wu Hung and we thank its owner Mr. Tabata for his and his staff’s commitment to the continued life of this work. Prior to Vancouver, Waste Not was featured at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (June 24 – Sept 7, 2009), and after the Vancouver Art Gallery presentation (Oct 2, 2010 – January 16, 2011), it was installed at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco (February 26 – June 12, 2011) in a broader exhibition of Song Dong’s work. Future installations in North America and elsewhere are under discussion.
Waste Not was the eleventh installation in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s program NEXT: A Series of Artists Projects from the Pacific Rim that highlights work not previously seen in Vancouver and engages the diverse practices of artists of the Asia Pacific. Our presenting sponsor for this series is TD Bank Financial Group whose generous support is truly appreciated.