The artist Song Dong's installation Waste Not situates the stripped frame of a small house amid an abundance of ordinary objects. The impact of the installation lies in its seeming defiance of spatial constraints. These many thousands of things, now piled up in the white emptiness of a gallery, were once the real contents of that tiny structure—the belongings of the artist's mother Zhao Xiangyuan, saved over a lifetime. The installation challenges the viewer “to marvel at the improbable geometry,” as Rebecca Falkoff puts it in her fascinating book Possessed: A Cultural History of Hoarding: “All that was in there.” The problem of scale is underscored by the minutiae that make up this monumental display: “Waste Not embodies immensity in the form of so much detritus.” As viewers try to mentally fit these objects back inside the TARDIS-like house, the installation dramatizes the opposition between living and storing:...
priyanka anne jacob is assistant professor of English at Loyola University Chicago. Her monograph-in-progress On Reserve: Objects, Information, and the Victorian Novel examines the cluttered form of the novel through an informational lens. Her scholarship has appeared in Victorian Studies, Victorian Literature and Culture, and Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom. Her article “The Pocket-book and the Pigeon-hole: Lady Audley's Secret and the Files of Victorian Fiction” received honorable mention for the 2019 Donald Gray Prize from the North American Victorian Studies Association.
Priyanka Anne Jacob; Containing Hoards. Novel 1 August 2023; 56 (2): 323–326. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-10562962
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