Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sunflower Seeds of joy & discontent

Ai Weiwei's installation Sunflower Seeds opened this week at the Tate Modern on London's South Bank bringing more than a stir to the London art scene.
Seeing Ai Weiwei's installation at Tate Modern was a fascinating insight into human behaviour. It was strange to watch what people were doing as they became saturated in a sea of fake seeds. Some were relaxing on the bed of Sunflower Seeds as though it were a beach, sifting through the seeds like sand. Children ran through the thousands of seeds enjoying the crunching under their feet while others buried their friends under piles of the hand-crafted items.

Meanwhile small gatherings of art students sat and discussed the meaning behind 100 million hand-painted ceramic sunflower seeds lying on the floor. Sunflower seeds were one of Chairman Mao's favourite snacks, the Chinese leader said to be responsible for the deaths of many Chinese and of bringing about the destructive Cultural Revolution [Bloomberg].

While visitors are encouraged to pick up the sunflower seeds and crunch them underfoot for an interactive art experience, the Tate has issued a stern warning after visitors on launch day said they were fighting the urge to take home a seed as a memento! "We are encouraging people to walk on them, but certainly not to take them," said Juliet Bingham, the curator.Apparently Ai was somewhat tickled by the notion of his work spreading across the world via the pockets of visitors. But he said, "For the museum's part, the argument is very clear. This is a total work and we want people to see the full effect of 100 million seeds."

He was seemingly more concerned that somebody could mistake his seeds for the real thing. "People might also like to eat them. That's a safety issue. They might try to sue the Tate for that," Ai said.

In fact tvnewswatch did witness one child outside the gallery trying to tempt a pigeon with a seed he'd appropriated. With so many seeds making up the 1000 sq metre exhibit, it might need quite a few souvenir hunters to make a dent on the vast carpet of sunflower seeds. But with hundreds of visitors every day and with the exhibit set to last until May next year, the carpet of seeds could become thinner [Telegraph / Guardian].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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