Song Dong at the Barbican


The curve gallery at the Barbican was choc full of stuff. The piles of stuff, stuff laid out and stuff in piled boxes all looked rather grubby set against the white space. 30 years of his mothers hoarding. Installed each time the work is shown by the artist and his sister, sometimes his mum too, this stuff is really personal. Yet for me the biggest surprise was at how shockingly familiar so much of it was.

I’m not an expert hoarder myself, but a close relative is. I helped my parents clear out my childhood home a couple of years ago and confronted lots of ancient memories then. Half my family come from Eastern Germany, and there are certainly plenty of outbuildings there filled with the accumulation of the past generation. Are these reasons for so much of the content of Dongs work being familiar to me?
I am even more shocked at the more likely explanation. Globalisation. Made in China. Production outsourced now for most of my lifetime to where labour is cheapest.
These ubiquitous consumables sweep away cultural signifiers. We all have some of the same crappola in our homes. We all wore similar baby clothes and rode similar rollerskates.
Whether the fear of shortages or the nostalgia the objects embody, the quantities on display here actually seemed not excessive to my western eyes. This amount is probably contained in the average British home. Even if that is only 5% of the global population, then multiplying this collection by 1 billion really is the most shocking thought of all.

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