One of the great thinsg about living in London is the abundance of inspiring artists - established, emerging, famous, undiscovered, dead and alive, who show work here, and that a large quantity of work can be seen for free,
I have been to the Tate quite a lot in quite quick succession recently, due to having friends and family visit. But I don't mind as currently Ai Weiwei's wonderful installation, Sunflower Seeds, fills the Turbine Hall (for those of you who haven't been that is a BIG space, as the Tate Modern used to be a power station) with over one million hand painted porcelain sunflower seeds.
Originally the intention was that the installation could be walked up on, but it was decided by the dreaded 'health and safety' enforcers that the dust created by walking on the seeds was dangerous, so now it is for looking at only. I find this quite sad as the installation is incrediblly beautiful, but a little too clinical without human interaction.
Despite the lack of human interaction in the Turbine Hall it is in fact the human touch that makes this Ai Weiwei's work so special. Every single replica seed in the installation was touched by human hands, painstakingly hand painted, something thats hard to comprehend when standing in front of the colossal sea of seeds.
Ai Weiwei is known for his social commentary and strong political views, which takes courage in a country like China. According to the text accompanying the installation;
'Ai is known for his social or performance-based interventions as well as object-based artworks. Citing Marcel Duchamp, he refers to himself as a 'readymade', merging his life and art in order to advocate both the freedoms and responsibilities of individuals. 'From a very young age I started to sense that an individual has to set an example in society', he has said. 'Your own acts and behaviour tell the world who you are and at the same time what kind of society you think it should be.'
Viewing the Sunflower Seeds I got a strong sense of the indvidual and the masses and the paradoxes of these two states, and again refering back to the accompanying text;
'Each piece is a part of the whole, a poignant commentary on the relationship between the individual and the masses. There are over one hundred million seeds, five times the number of Beijing's population and nearly a quarter of China's internet users. The work seems to pose numerous questions. What does it mean to be an individual in today's society? Are we insignificant or powerless unless we act together? What do our increasing desires, materialism and number mean for society, the environment and the future?'