Friday, May 20, 2011

London, China, Art, and Visibility

 I was going to post a What I Wore photo taken by Pater in the garden yesterday, but then I clicked on That's Not My Age's post for today. TNMA has declared her own Ai Weiwei Day to raise consciousness about the disappearance of the artist, and I thought I'd join her.
 Ai Weiwei was "detained" by the Chinese government shortly after Pater and I viewed his Sunflower Seeds in the vast turbine hall of London's Tate Modern.  He hasn't been seen since and has now been missing for 47 days.
 I'm very choosy about what I like when it comes to conceptual art: this work not only packs a huge aesthetic punch, but the accompanying video about Weiwei's work with the artisans who produced these ceramic sunflower seeds, following the clay from the earth to its forming and being placed in the moulds to the firing and then the hand-painting, centuries and centuries of expertise in porcelain-making being brought into contemporary art, the fusing of culture and politics and history -- is moving and breathtaking. (This post, in the blog Arrested Motion, has that video for you to watch -- it's worth the fifteen minutes, really worth it!)
I don't have TNMA's great good fortune in being able to view the two important exhibitions of Weiwei's art currently on in London, but I got to see them through her eyes. And I can join her in trying to keep his art and his plight visible. She's provided a link to a Free Ai Weiwei page, At the very least, we can keep the Chinese government aware of the world's watching eyes.

I've borrowed this photo from That's Not My Age -- I hope she doesn't mind.
As you can see from TNMA's photo, Weiwei's work can be beautiful and colourful even as it is subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) political. And her post will also show you the abundant humour in his work. As you know, I almost never "do" politics here, but it's hard not to be moved to some tiny action after having seen the artist's work so recently. Back to the superficial again tomorrow with that What I Wore post.


  1. Hi there,
    I don't mind - I'm so pleased that you liked my Ai Wewei post. Thanks for the mention!

    PS Did you go to the Madame Grés exhibition? I'm planning a trip in June. It looks fantastic. Can't wait!

  2. Thank you for this post Mater. The video is very moving.

  3. Looking at your photos of this piece, and reading your words before even moving over to TNMA and Arrested Motion, I felt a sense of awe at how incredibly stunning and moving this work must be. I saw a smaller version of the sunflower seeds in a pile a while back, and it was a piece of conceptual art that, even in that relatively small space, was powerfully rendered commentary on art and craft, culture and history. I do wish I could experience this piece.

    Interesting, this confluence of events crossing my path, the blog posts combined with my just having received a notice from a favorite small museum, the Knoxville Museum of Art, that they currently have an Ai Weiwei exhibit which I dearly wish I could go see.

    Well I wish I could see my grandson who lives in Knoxville as well.

  4. Interesting anecdote (well, to me) - I have a photo of Ai Wei Wei on my bookshelf. He is standing with an elderly German lady who is a dear friend of mine - she was my landlady 30 years ago. I had never heard of him until she told me about him a few years ago. He showed a piece of art at the Dokumenta in Kassel in 2007, an outdoor sculpture made of ancient Chinese doors. A huge storm knocked it sideways (almost literally) and he came to inspect. Inge was there (she lives nearby) and showed him before and after photos that she had taken. He was feted in Kassel last year and she went along and met him again and I believe that this is when the photo was taken. He seems to be a quite extraordinary man and artist. P.

  5. So wanted to see his Sunflower Seeds, but it closed just before we arrived. While we were in London, there was lots of press coverage as to his disappearance and that he was unable to attend the opening of his exhibit at Somerset.....I will watch the video. Thank you.

  6. TNMA: Scroll down to my next post to see photos of the Grès exhibition -- it was amazing! I'll be looking forward to seeing your impressions of it.
    Susan: I'm so pleased you took the time to view the video -- we were so moved by it.
    Mardel: It was truly astonishing, and it must have been more so when people were allowed to walk on the seeds (sadly, they were eventually, perhaps inevitably, prohibited, ostensibly because of dust/health concerns, but more likely because so many people were pocketing them).
    Very cool that your favourite museum is helping draw attention to Weiwei -- oh, if only we could get to all the shows we want to.
    Patricia: So two degrees of separation AND you have the photo to prove it! He really does seem to be an exceptional man, a brilliant and important artist, and I so hope he soon reappears, safe and healthy.
    Pavlova: Sorry you missed Sunflower Seeds, but you'll find the video fascinating anyway . . . it's a wonderful story.


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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