nothing in art is what it seems. and you can't eat a single one of ai weiwei's sunflower seeds, any more than you could marcel duchamp's marble sugar cubes. they'd break your teeth. but you can trudge over them, walk or skip or dance on these seeds, all of them made in china. or scoop up handfuls and let them run through your fingers, in the knowledge that someone, an old lady or a small-town teenager in jingdezhen, has delicately picked up each one and anointed it with a small brush. every seed is painted by hand. the town that once made porcelain for the imperial court has been saved from bankruptcy by making sunflower seeds. it is absurd.
it is a work of great simplicity and complexity. sunflower seeds refers to everyday life, to hunger (the seeds were a reliable staple during the cultural revolution), to collective work, and to an enduring chinese industry. but it is also symbolic. it joins several previous turbine hall commissions – most recently doris salcedo's 2008 shibboleth and miroslaw balka's how it is – in a dialogue about the social and cultural place of art.
—adrian searle (for the guardian) on ai weiwei's "sunflower seeds" exhibit at the tate modern
i read a quote about ai weiwei that said his art + his politics are one and the same. i am struck by china's fear of this fearless man, large enough that they had to capture and hide him away. the situation fills me with incredulity, but i think the silver lining is the encouraging message that one person can make such an impact.
the chinese government was too late—ai weiwei has already spoken.
what do you think?
hope your wednesday blooms.