Ai Weiwei / 艾未未 : Sunflower Seeds
Ai Weiwei 艾未未 Sunflower Seeds at the Tate Modern, London - part of the Unilever Series. 12th October 2010 to 2nd May 2011.
See also a related set of CGI / 3D Computer Generated Images based on the work.
The work is made up of 100 million porcelain ceramic sunflower seeds, with the characteristic dark stripes created by individually hand painting a glaze by skilled craft workers in workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen / 景德镇, a region with a very long history of production of quality pottery.
The seeds are grey and white, but the combination of skylight and artificial lighting creates purple and green hues in the shadows.
Visitors could originally walk upon the "field of seeds", but health concerns over the small quantities of airborne ceramic / vitreous dust that might be generated by friction between the seeds resulted in the work being fenced off with a knee high wire rope, and continuous guarding.
Both the public and the artist were not very happy with this arrangement. This being feudal Britain - a nation that has never really (so far) been able to muster up a proper revolution - most people drearily comply with the restrictions. There are occasional unauthorised "pitch invasions". Toddlers and pensioners prepared to ham up a spot of senile dementia are the most likely to get away with it without prosecution. Or just people of high principles prepared to respect the artist's wishes. I bet that Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn would be game for it...
Ai Weiwei ("Ai" is the family name) needles away at the conflict that arises between China's ferocious economic freedoms and growth, and the restrictions resulting from an authoritarian single party state. He has both been the artistic consultant on the Beijing National (Olympic) Stadium and also endured house arrest and international travel restrictions. On one occasion he was so badly assaulted by the police that he almost died, requiring surgery to attend to internal bleeding from a head injury.
All the same. All different. Sunflower seeds are a traditional chinese snack food. You can offer them to people.
Ai Weiwei [Tate Modern]
Ai Weiwei [Wikipedia]
Ai Weiwei assault [The Guardian article]