“Wabi-sabi is underplayed and modest, the kind of quiet, undeclared beauty that waits patiently to be discovered. It’s a fragmentary glimpse: the branch representing the entire tree, shoji screens filtering the sun, the moon 90 percent obscured behind a ribbon of cloud. Sabi by itself means “the bloom of time.” It connotes natural progression-tarnish, hoariness, rust-the extinguished gloss of that which once sparkled. It’s the understanding that beauty is fleeting. Sabi things carry the burden of their years with dignity and grace: the chilly mottled surface of an oxidized silver bowl, the yielding gray of weathered wood, the elegant withering of a bereft autumn bough… An abandoned barn, as it collapses in on itself, holds this mystique.”
In Singapore, we have these old guys who go from building to building collecting people’s unwanted goods. The original recyclers, karangunis as they’re known, take everything from cans to old magazines.
I have a bit of a karanguni heart. Old sauce bottles become vases for lilies. Glass jars from the yoghurt we ate in Paris and lugged home will become holders for candles. And work currently has a stack of biscuits in an old-school tin (one the size of a small stool), that I’m trying to get everyone to eat quick-smart so the studio can have its little side table.
You know your neighbour’s old dresser they left out on the curb for collection on Hard Rubbish day? That’s probably in my living room.
And so, my question: why do we throw away. Why can’t things have a second life. When do things finally not mean anything to us anymore?
I have deep empathy for abandoned things. I want to collect all the broken, forgotten. Not rescue. Just… keep near me. Help find its function again or maybe discover a new purpose for the bowl or chair.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t mind inheriting some gorgeous La Triennale-worthy pieces. But somehow I feel safer in the old and the lived-in including the cracks, watermarks and things that have exposed themselves in time. Don’t you want to know of the secrets and deep past of these objects and spaces?
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