Ai Weiwei’s Cloud of Dust

Two days after Ai Weiwei’s installation of sunflower seeds opened, in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern staff took the decision to restrict access to it. The installation is fashioned out of of 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds, ten centimetres deep. The original concept was to allow people to walk over the bed, but after two days, it became apparent that this was causing a cloud of dangerous porcelain dust to fill the gallery. The Tate is required by law to protect all staff from inhaling anything remotely unfit and the risk of ill health and injury resulting from walking through a lot of porcelain dust is a danger. The Artist, was unavailable for comment, his latest work “Sunflower Seeds,” a project which has taken two years to complete and contains over one hundred million handcrafted porcelain seeds.The project is loaded with thoughts and associations. From a distance, it looks like a beach of gray shingle, or a Zen garden.The public are allowed to interact with the project and the tactile qualities of the seeds.The concept reflects on Weiwei’s childhood when sunflower seeds made up most of his staple diet, in his native China, during the rein of Chairman Mao Zedong. Ai Weiwei is China’s most famous living artist. At 53, he is an increasingly prominent figure in the international art world. His work is a mixture of the outrageousness familiar in recent Western art merged with a sense of traditional Chinese techniques. After the death of Chairman Mao in 1976, his family returned to Beijing, where Weiwei studied at the Film Academy. In his third year, his then girlfriend got permission to study in America and he decided to go west. He stayed in the US for 12 years, encountering Duchamp, Dada, Surrealism, and conceptual art – all of which had a strong influence on his later work. Weiwei is most famous for his collaboration with the Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron as artistic adviser on the design for the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium, one of the most iconic buildings in modern China. He then refused to have anything to do with the opening of the Olympics feeling it was a propaganda platform for the freedom-restricting regime governing modern China today. I would love to ask his thoughts on the subject of health and safety policies in the EU and if he feels this is an overreaction.



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