Wisdom of the Poor: Communal Courtyard,
an art installation by Chinese artist Song Dong,
Art Gallery of Ontario
This installation is made from parts of 100 old wardrobes collected from traditional Beijing neighbourhoods, or hutongs, like the one in which Song Dong grew up in. These neighbourhoods, and their communal way of life, are disappearing.
There are two circles of wardrobes that you can enter – where you can now stand in the courtyard so to speak. The wardrobes become stand-ins for the fronts of houses that once faced onto courtyards in the old hutongs of Beijing.
A wardrobe was one of the items that the Chinese government provide to all families. They are all similar yet different. All have mirrors. Most are made of the same colour wood and most have green curtains. They all have little legs and they are all about the same height.
Wardrobes are personal articles and former owners have left their marks on many of them…. a different fabric in the window or a picture glued onto the wood.
This installation also appeared in the Venice biennale in 2011 although the wardrobes were arranged differently. For the exhibit at the AGO, there are a number of items that appear within the ‘courtyards’ created by the wardrobes. For the viewer, these items can only be viewed through the windows of the wardrobes. One of the items, below, is a series of three paintings of the Canadian ballerina Karen Kain.
In another, bikes
This installation remains at the AGO until 17 July 2016