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To Preserve and Protect 

Wednesday, Feb 16 2011
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We have a soft spot for artists who obsessively collect — we like our artists slightly mad. To us, the heroine of this movement, or perhaps affliction, is Sophie Calle. In her landmark "Birthday Ceremony," she exhibited birthday gifts she had received for 13 years. They had never been used, played with, read, worn, or listened to, just preserved in boxes and displayed in glass cases. Right behind her, however, is artist Song Dong, but most of the credit actually goes to his mother. She collected a lot of stuff, or rather, she never got rid of any stuff. Like toothpaste tubes, buttons, jars, blankets, clothes, cans, toys. For more than 50 years in a tiny house in Beijing, she kept everything. The act adhered to the Cultural Revolution adage "waste not," but there was also grief from her husband's death, and maybe a little of the beautiful madness. In 2005, her son helped her finally release her past by presenting it whole as art. In "Dad and Mom, Don't Worry About Us, We Are All Well," all 10,000 or so items of Zhao Xiangyuan's life, and even a section of the house, have been neatly stacked, folded, and arranged in a sprawling, devastating exhibit, which allows visitors to move among the piles. With 50 years of Chinese life and proof of one family's existence laid out around you, it's a walk you won't soon forget.
Thursdays-Sundays; First Tuesday of every month. Starts: Feb. 25. Continues through June 7, 2011

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Michael Leaverton

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