Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Sowing Artistic Seeds

Ai Weiwei and his sunflower seeds
It was disappointing to find the Tate Modern in London has abruptly closed down its "Sunflower Seeds" installation piece by Ai Weiwei after concerns that the seeds -- actually 100 million ceramic pieces shaped and painted to look like sunflower seeds were deemed a health hazard.

Apparently when people play with these things, which are fired with a matte finish, kick up a lot of dust that could be harmful to breathe in.

The whole point of the piece was to allow people to wade in the seeds, play with them, walk on them, or even lie on them in a large expansive area in the Turbine Hall. They were encouraged to touch them and feel them in their hands and enjoy the art with their senses (except taste!).

Sunflower seeds are so simple, a popular snack in China that people eat and carelessly drop the shells on the ground. But in the Tate Modern they are prized art pieces.

Each of the seeds were individually made and painted by people in Jingdezhen, a city well known for its fine ceramics, and it took two years to finish making all 100 million ceramic seeds, which, when spread on the floor four inches thick looks like a giant mass of gray.

For now the installation is cordoned off by rope which is a pity; how can one experience Ai's work from a distance?

It really is a clever idea that should allow visitors to try (at their own risk). Why not give them masks to wear while wandering on the seeds?

Otherwise it's wasted art.

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