diamond geezer

 Sunday, March 04, 2012

Yesterday the Barbican celebrated its 30th birthday. Specifically the Arts Centre by the lake at the heart of the concrete complex - that multi-level warren of passageways, atria and performance spaces. Her Majesty described it in her opening speech as "one of the wonders of the modern world", which was probably overdoing it even for 1982. But it remains a most impressive place, assuming you can find your way around, which I still can't. Celebrations take the form of the annual Barbican Weekender, which this year sees a peculiar mix of street art and Shakespeare sharing the stage, and the foyers, and any available cranny as appropriate. Hip hop MCs, parkour and street dance - they're not the usual cultural fare hereabouts. Indeed the audience wandering into the Barbican appeared to be as middle class as ever, with an especially high number of young children in tow, and having a whale of a time (because you can't go wrong with helium balloons and interactive screens). Continues today.

Song Dong: Waste Not (The Curve, Barbican, until 12 June)
If you're a bit of a hoarder, as I confess I am, you might well store seemingly worthless things away in case they're ever useful one day. Song Dong's mother Zhao did precisely that, back in the days of Mao's China, because thrift and frugality were the best way to survive. When her husband died she started to accumulate more and more, until eventually her son decided to exhibit the whole lot as a collective art installation. More than ten thousand of the family's household possessions have been laid out around the Barbican's Curve in a unique artwork which lays bare the stuff of everyday life. Crockery, cutlery, furniture, watch straps, thermos flasks, garden tools, books, empty rolled toothpaste tubes, shoes and more shoes, it's all here. One section contains more bottles and cans than any household could usefully have need of, another features an array of cuddly toys sprawled across piles of crumpled cardboard boxes. The collection goes on, and on, and on, laying bare the everyday that many of us have stashed away in cupboards, lofts, garages, wherever. It's a rather splendid tribute, now to two lost parents, that Song regularly recreates in galleries around the world. Having walked through from end to end, and surveyed the unwitting spoils of a random life, I'm moved to apologise to whichever poor sod gets the burden of disposing of my bits and pieces after I've gone.


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