Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Multiples of the Miniature

I have a fascination with things that are little; dollhouses and the things in them, model train sets, baby clothes, etc. BUT, when there are multiples of the miniatures, I get a little giddy and possibly hyperventilate a smidge. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered Ai Weiwei’s current exhibit at the Tate Modern in London, Sunflower Seeds, open until May 2, 2011. The Turbine Hall’s floor covered in sunflower seeds? And I’m allowed to touch them?! What could be better! (Free admission, that’s what. And yes, I am aware that sunflowers seeds are not actually miniatures, but they are still tiny… And I also realize that London is very far away.) But enough about my strange obsessions, on to the art!

Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist, has created an installation that, upon first glance, appears to be very simple and slightly predictable- millions of sunflower husks on the floor. However, after a closer look, the viewer discovers that the sunflower seeds are not what they appear, but are in fact, handcrafted porcelain replicas of sunflower seed husks. Weiwei’s work addresses the mass-production that China is known for and also the idea of the loss of identity amidst the masses. Weiwei idea of lost identity comes from Chairman Mao Zedong’s media propaganda which depicted him as the sun and the masses as sunflowers upturned toward him. Related to Sunflower Seeds, is also Weiwei’s previous exhibit at the Groninger Museum in 2007, Water Melon. This exhibit features fifteen porcelain replicas of watermelons placed on the ground.

Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds appeals to me because of the idea of mass production becoming more personal and intricate. I use mainly crayons and yarn in my work, both mass produced items, and turn them into unique and individual works. While not the same as Weiwei’s handcrafted sunflower seed husks, with my work- especially the crayon/wax works- I take something mass produced and make it into something that requires a second look and a little thought.

(Yes, I realize that this has already been discussed on the blog, courtesy of Professor Graham, however, I feel that I can relate to Weiwei’s work and some of his conceptual ideas, and I find his work relevant to me as an artist.)

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Boris Zakic said...

thanks Brenna--
Have you considered the commissioned army, as some sources suggested, of 1600 "artisans" to make these?, Also, how can Ai, with or without Seung H-Sang, play a pivotal activist role for the forthcoming The Gwangju Design Biennale? These are some questions for you after the seed thing dust settles--

Earl Grey said...

These objects are not, actually, miniature. To function as a miniature, an object has to be reduced in size. These sunflowers are actual sized. So, while they are, indeed, multiples, they are not miniature. And, now as I am writing this, I think that they are less multiples, as a tenet of multiplicity is the idea of duplication (identical nature) rather than mere multiplication.

I look forward to talking w/ you about this further, Brenna!