June 11, 2012

"I think art is a very important weapon to achieve human freedom."

"Freedom of expression is a very essential condition for me to make any art. Also, it is an essential value for my life. I have to protect this right and also to fight for the possibility.... [P]eople in office just try to maintain so-called stability to protect their own profit, or their own interest. They have to crush other voices. There’s no real communication or discussion.”

Said Ai Weiwei.


edutcher said...
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edutcher said...

Takes a lot of guts to do that.

Stand for freedom in Red China, that is.

bagoh20 said...

To use human beings' labor, their time, their lives so frivolously is immoral. I expect people who consider themselves creative to be able to do better than just be absurd for the hell of it. If this artist does have a creative mind, which I don't see any evidence of here, he should use it better. For me there is no beauty, and nothing of interest in this work. His message about freedom seems hollow when the gift is used so poorly.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

It's just art. Try not to get all wei-wei'd up over it.

bagoh20 said...

"It's just art."

I'd have no problem with it if he just painted something, but he used so many resources and produced so little. It's equivalent to having those people dig ditches and then fill them back in. Which no doubt someone has or will do someday and claim it as art.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I find it hard to believe he could not have done much more with his time and resources. Maybe dig a well, or build a sanitary crapper, and then paint it like a giant sunflower seed.

He took big rocks and made them into small rocks. We used to call that a chain gang.

ndspinelli said...

They could hang her art in baseball dugouts, where sunflower seeds are consumed by the bagful.

leslyn said...


Instead of essentially calling him trash, why don't you spend some time looking at his other work? And then consider that not all art is a painting.

Bet you would have said about Picasso and Van Gogh, "I could have done better than that in grade school." But you didn't.

Gabriel Hanna said...


Sunflowers figure heavily in government propaganda. The sunflower seeds are the Chinese people, faceless and interchangeable, and the sunflower turns as one unit to follow the sun (the Party).

This is why Ai Weiwei's art is subversive--he's turned the government's pet symbol of collectivism and made it a symbol of individualism.

For this he and his friends and associates have been persecuted. Because even a coded, symbolic criticism of the government is intolerable to the Party.

Now does it make sense to you? It makes perfect sense to every person in China.

leslyn said...

Hey! His comment about "crushing others" sounds like he's here, not in China!

Gabriel Hanna said...

A little more background:

" These are seeds that can never open, never grow into the million forms of life their form promises. Each represents a stillborn existence, while it is the fate of the whole mass of them to be – literally, in the act performed daily by the work's audience – downtrodden.
Yet considered another way, there's a defiant optimism. In Western art the sunflower, face turned always to the sun, is an old symbol of fidelity to God and king – to declare undying loyalty to Charles I, Van Dyck painted his famous Self-Portrait with Sunflower. In Communist China the same symbolism was used for propaganda, translated into posters showing a multitude looking to Chairman Mao like a field of sunflowers facing the sun.
But Ai Weiwei's multitude of seeds face and follow no one. They form a fragmented world, something atomised, smashed to rubble. And maybe that's what they're truly meant to portend: the fall of China's old guard, the dismantling of the totalitarian system, which will take place as surely as every tide will always turn.
Sunflower Seeds is a softly spoken message to the people Ai Weiwei loves and whose masters he contemns. Sooner or later China will have to change. One day, all those seeds will grow."

phx said...
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Chip Ahoy said...

So those seeds that people made and painted are being smashed to powder by other people walking on them?

phx said...
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EDH said...
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EDH said...

"What about that kid, sitting down, opening a book right now in a branch of the local library and finding drawings of Pee-Pees and Weiweis?"

Lem said...

Sunflower Safety
"Tate has closed the Sunflower Seeds installation to the public on safety grounds. They issued the following statement: ... Tate, in consultation with the artist, has decided not to allow members of the public to walk across the sculpture."

Balloons and blood
More balloons were released in the rotunda Monday afternoon after the incident.

Lem said...

So those seeds that people made and painted are being smashed to powder by other people walking on them?

Vision with eyes on the head is more limited than the credit it deserves.

The interaction of walking on the sunflower seeds may put vision more on a par with the other senses... or something.

leslyn said...

So it was only unreal disrespect?

Lem said...

The irony I find is that our left uses Plastic (fake) as synonymous with slavery.

This artist uses fake sunflower seeds to depict what our left proposes to promote.. individual freedom.

phx said...
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phx said...
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bagoh20 said...

Oh I get it. I just don't get it in general. I'm not a big symbolism guy. I just think work effort and resources are most beautifully organized when they strive to be more than mere symbols. That goes for people too. I'm not a fan of a lot of such art. Had it a beauty of form or utility that spoke to me, I could love it, but I don't feel obligated to feel what's not there. In my opinion, if the art has to be explained, then it has failed in it's primary function. I'm no fan of Yoko for the same reason. YMMV.

bagoh20 said...

I know people think I have reacted knee jerk to this, but that works both ways. I know exactly what he was doing or attempting. I'm just disappointed when people who have great talent and resources at their disposal do something anyone of us could.

I can appreciate the bravery of standing up to the Chinese government, but I'm talking about the art, not the politics where it took place. If you didn't know the story would you be impressed. If that's what impresses you, then it's not the art. I see it as phoning it in and usurping.

What is the great insight here, the exceptional expression of talent? What is it that could not have been done by anybody with enough cheap labor? No matter what resources you gave me, I could not produce great art. I have no talent, but I could do this. If there is something there, then maybe I don't get it. I expect he could do much better. I bet he does too.

bagoh20 said...

The sophisticated cling so tightly.

I actually like my idea of a giant sunflower seed better. If I could be so arrogant to suggest that the problem with the Chinese is their readiness to see themselves as millions of tiny seeds in a large pile, expendable, identical, only powerful and important in number.

They need to see themselves as individuals, one seed that grows into something unique - not many that grow into many that are each lost in the forest.

Much of what is wrong and dangerous about China is this self-image. It permits things like sex selection abortion, infanticide, child labor, hazardous work environments.

I'm not attacking the Chinese, I am attacking the mind set, and by extension this art. Even the way it was produced reminded one of tiny unimportant cogs in a centralized mission. I don't like it and I'm not afraid to say so.

So, nanner nanner nanner!

leslyn said...

bagoh, did you see the movie "Contraband?" 140 mil for a Jackson Pollack that everyone else thought was a painter's tarp.

I think art can be like other great inventions: we could have thought of it, but we didn't; we might have executed it had we the internal inspiration, vision, drive and skill.

bagoh20 said...


If nobody can tell the difference between a piece of visual art and a piece of junk by looking at it, then isn't it by definition the same thing?

My problem with this art piece isn't that it looked like junk. It was the unimpressiveness of so much work. It seemed almost cruelly self-indulgent.

Although I've been there, I'm not Chinese, and don't claim any real knowledge of what these people feel about it. I'm just expressing my impression of a visual art that I can see just like anyone else.

Maybe, because I work in a labor intensive industry, I have a sensitivity to what looks to me like wasteful labor. I see those women sitting there painting all those stones for the glory of an artist, and I get a little peeved. I suppose some are actually proud to have worked on it. I still think it's fine to express a my visceral response to a piece of art as I see it through my eyes, even if it's not "sophisticated". I've never been mistaken for such.

bagoh20 said...

Oh, and as to your point about invention. I have a number of patents, and have made some decent money off of inventions, but I fully realize, there was nothing special about me coming up with them first. Someone might have beat me too it, and just never did the work or hired the people or spent the money. I don't think there is anything of talent or specialness in that I did. That's what I see here. No great insight, or invention, just the will and ability to spend the resources.

That is completely beside the issue of the government repression and standing up to the danger, which may be impressive, but I'm not addressing that at all. The guy in Tiananmen in front of the tank was incredibly brave, but it wasn't art.

I can't believe I've spent this many words on this. I'm done. It's just my opinion - in all it's perfection.

Lem said...

It was the unimpressiveness of so much work.

That's what Cher says about the Kardashians.

bagoh20 said...

Funny Lem. I was expecting someone to use that very line against my bloviating.

Too late now.

Chip Ahoy said...

The MacBook Pro I'm using will not show the video but I think I see what is going on. The artist used an entire town of people for their whole careers making those seeds, the purpose of which is not to produce something beautiful as only the Chinese workshops can do with their seemingly endless supply of labor willing to devote their lives to some mindless task in producing astonishing works of art run through their art factories like their factory art silks that pass through hundreds of hands if not thousands before they're finally finished. Used for diplomatic gifts. No, not for anything like that, this activity directed by this single artist is for the purpose of being smashed. Very subversive to use the whole town that way, to waste so much of its energy for so long to make such a damaging point against itself.

Lem said...

I am a Rock

Lem said...

The MacBook Pro I'm using will not show the video....


Chinese iPhones.. sunflower seeds.. it could be interpreted in other ways.

Rusty said...

isn't it the anniversary of Tienanmen Square?
Talk about edgy. That tank guy was edgy.
I bet he wasn't some artist though.
Just some guy, on his way to work.
Standing up to the man probably didn't figure in his plans when he woke up that morning.
He did though.
Nobody knows what happened to him.
probably shot.
Shot along with the tank commander and his crew.
The state want what the state wants and the state does not want dissent.
So the state kills people.
But sunflowers are edgy too.

leslyn said...

12/12 12:05 AM bagoh20 said... "Leslyn, If nobody can tell the difference between a piece of visual art [by Jackson Pollack] and a piece of junk by looking at it, then isn't it by definition the same thing?"

Ah, but it wasn't nobody. It was the few and the hasty who did not look. I've never seen a Pollack in person, so most--not all--of his stuff I don't get. But one thing I have learned is that being in the presence of the real thing can totally blow me away. I've never thought much of the performance artist Christo but I would have loved to walk through his installation "The Gates" in Central Park.

R. Chatt said...

I don't think this is an artist who cares about making something people will like or admire. As he said at the beginning, he's more interesting in "art" as an experience which opens up areas of thought. So if he can make something which gets people thinking and wondering about things, especially significant things like the relationship of the individual in China to the State, then he has accomplished his goal.

I was impressed by his ambition of scale as well as his involvement in the process and the historical significance of porcelain production. He's really thought out this project -- it wasn't something haphazard or capricious.

I can totally relate to bagoh20's criticisms, the desire to see human imagination and capital put to the production of something magnificent and inspiring. But this is something to be experienced in a different way; like a child's precious drawing hung on a refrigerator door is also art but you wouldn't compare it to St. Peter's Basilica, but they are both art and both provide special and meaningful experiences.

China is different for sure, (Made in China is different from Made in USA) but I can see that from the standpoint of making a living, people are the same. The people facing bankruptcy in that small town are just happy to have a steady job and happy to be able to buy themselves things. It doesn't really matter what they are making, it's about making some money. And this artist, Weiwei, has actually taken on the role of job creator as well and done much more than just enriching himself.

I was much more impressed with this piece after seeing this video than I had been just reading the description of people in London visiting the exhibition. The Exhibition was probably the least interesting part of the whole piece.

tiger said...

One of the biggest scams perpetuated on the public is based on du Champ's(?) comment that
'"Art" is what I say it is'.

This takes us from the 'Mona Lisa' to 'Nude Descendng a Staircase' to Christo's umbrellas to Maplethrop's 'bullwhip insertion' photos to 'Piss Christ'; in other words: from the sublime to the absurd and if not obscene then certainly offensive.