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Photo by Tate Photography. For many among its audience, the installation—a vast field of life-size porcelain seeds—appeared from a distance to be made not of real husks but of carefully raked gravel or chippings. Yet, whether the components were handcrafted sculptures or industrial materials, the intended sense of dislocation, curiosity and altered perception still arose.
Confusion and wonderment mixed as the mind struggled to grasp the relationship between the individual and the whole. Ai has long been fascinated by the cultural traditions of materials and objects, and of porcelain in particular—the survival of its artisan production, its supreme quality, its early traditions of mass production and global export and the value still invested in it as a cultural artifact in China today.
And, like the fragile porcelain seeds themselves, this curious project may bear limited fruit.
The Jingdezhen workshops are much reduced—deregulation in the s and the closure of state-owned porcelain firms have left the city exposed to competition from provinces specializing in cheaper wares.
Sunflower Seeds, despite its unusual creation, paralleled the growth of materialism, globalization and mass-production in China, and the increasing impotence of the modern worker, creating meaningless products for distant, demanding markets. The seeds were also potent symbols of the Cultural Revolution.
The characterization of Mao as the sun, and the faithful as sunflowers turning to face him, was commonplace.
The association here with the hopes and savage disappointments of the time, both spiritual and material, was unmistakable.
It reinforced allusions both to ash, with its connotations of cremation, and to the fundamental tensions between the individual and the collective in Chinese society, as the field of seeds, seemingly identical yet each unique, laid dormant. There was also a related personal association.
Among the exiles there, the sharing of seeds provided a moment of covert community solidarity. Ai has early memories of his mother hulling seeds with her teeth, proficiently preserving the kernel—the seeds still communicate such simple acts of pleasure in an increasingly complex world.
He is driven by a long-standing desire to encourage both freedom of thought and the strength to act, whether in the face of political repression and censorship or of such new threats to individual expression as materialism and even mass production.
Sunflower Seeds expressed the responsibility he feels to articulate and further this struggle, and of his belief in the transformative possibilities of society.
Sunflower Seeds was extended beyond the Turbine Hall through Twitter. Booths alongside the work allowed visitors to pose questions directly to Ai via video, to which he replied on the Tate website.
Sunflower Seeds was meticulous, beautiful, sparse, suggestive, even emotional, but it was not prescriptive.Oct 23, · Sunflower Seeds is an installation of the famous contemporary Chinese conceptualist artist Ai Weiwei () first opened in in the Turbine Hall of London contemporary art gallery Tate Modern.
Through his installation the Chinese dissident artist transmits a variety of meanings to the audience, ideological values and beliefs of different levels.5/5(1). The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, with his Sunflower Seeds exhibition, has set a mind-twisting game in the Tate Modern in which sensorial stimulus and cognition processes are confounded into a single operation repeated millions of times.
His father, a poet and writer, was accused of being an anti-revolutionary and after a period in jail, was. Ai Weiwei: Life Cycle will be accompanied by an illustrated publication, the third in MAF’s Project Series featuring an essay written by mythologist, writer, and professor Martin Shaw.
Ai Weiwei essay with references to artworks 'Remembering' and 'Sunflower Seeds'. Essay question included in document. Figure 3: Ai Weiwei, Sunflower seeds (Porcelain), , x cm, Tate Modern: London (Philipson, ).
In the small town of Jingdezhen, the seeds were hand crafted and hand painted by local Chinese artisans in their workshops. Sunflower Seeds is an installation of the famous contemporary Chinese conceptualist artist Ai Weiwei () first opened in in the Turbine Hall of London contemporary art gallery Tate Modern.
Through his installation the Chinese dissident artist transmits a variety of meanings to the audience, ideological values and beliefs of different levels.