Art & denunciation by the river... (Part III)


Sunflowers Seeds, by Ai Weiwei (2010)
Material: porcelain (detail)
02/05/18 - One of Ai Weiwei’s installations at Proa’s exhibition is entitled "Kui Hua Zi" and is made of 15 tons of tiny porcelain hand-painted pieces, that copy sunflower seeds. According to Weiwei, they represent the difficulties and starvation of the Chinese people during the Revolution. It has variable dimensions, mainly due to the space in which it is displayed. There’s not one seed similar to another in the 100.000.000 that take part of the installation. Hundreds of artisans from the city of Jingdezhen, almost all of them women, were hired to produce them as if they were real. Through them, each one unique, the artist invites us to take a closer look to what it means “Made in China” and the enslaving work that’s been done for centuries in his country. The sunflower seed is a symbol of Communist China since Mao compared himself with the Sun and the people with sunflowers. In Beijing, Weiwei’s hometown, the seeds are sold everywhere, mainly by kids on the streets.

This landscape of seeds, that takes  up an entire room at Proa, can only be seen up close or walked around. Although porcelain is a resistant material, it is forbidden to walk over the seeds. However, from its borders we are able to appreciate the perfection of each tiny piece.

Sunflower Seeds, by Ai Weiwei (2010)
Material: porcelain / Measures: 116.5 m2 - 15 tons

In the second room you’ll find "Moon Chest", a minimalist artwork similar to the renown Chinese chests, that are made with exquisite woods. Ai Weiwei employed specialized artisans to build 81 chests in quince wood. Only 5 are in display here. On their front and back sides they have circular holes that, when these huge chests are aligned, form the phases of the moon.

Moon Chest, by Ai Weiwei (2008)

Material: Huang Hua Li wood / Measures: 320 x 160 x 80 cm each one

Finally, a representation in lego bricks of a 1995 performance  in which Weiwei dropped a Han dynasty urn to the floor, documenting the process of destruction of this symbol of China’s culture. This one is also a triptych but different to the previous action (made with photos), because it also denotes the massive production of toy pieces.
As for the previous "Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn", Ai Weiwei looked to cause controversy when, outside his mother’s house in Beijing, he dropped a 200-years-old urn to the floor. Not only was the object valuable in itself (the artist paid a considerable sum for it), but the Han dynasty was a defining symbol in Chinese culture.
“General Mao used to say that only a new world can be built if we destroy the old one,” Weiwei explained after his performance, in reference to the political measures taken by the Communist government. 

Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, by Ai Weiwei (2016) 
Material: lego bricks / Measures: 240 x 200 x 3 cm c/u (detail)

With these actions, with which he expresses his message agains t hypocrisy, Ai Weiwei shaped his career. Plus, he was also interested in spreading concepts as mass production, specially artisanal one, in an economy based in minimum labour wages. The artworks are merely a very intelligent excuse to address these very sensitive political issues.
At Proa’ exhibition, all the stages of Weiwei’s carreer are presented: those related to China’s history and more recent concerns, such as the situation of the refugees, transforming this aesthetic experience into a call of awareness to all the world.

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Liliana Wrobel

Production & Translation

Carla Mitrani