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.)
For more information, see http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/unileverseries2010/room1.shtm