I was very lucky to visit the latest Unilever commission in the Turbine hall at the Tate modern in London, Ai Weiwei’s 100 million hand made porcelain Sunflower seeds.
The ambitious exhibition attracted lots of visitors to the already popular contemporary arts gallery in London’s south bank. I managed to walk on the seeds and feel the crunching of the porcelain seeds under my feet, and touch the unique seeds which were made by hand in one town in China.
Unfortunately after few days of opening the exhibition to the public there were concerns that the amount of dust that was made by walking and moving the porcelain seeds might be hazardous and may cause health problems, and the organisers decided not to allow members of the public to walk across the seeds. The installation is currently viewable from the Turbine Hall bridge.
I was fortunate to compile the following short video clip about the exhibition and get you the feeling of the unique experience with this amazing sculpture.
Sunflower Seeds is made up of millions of small works, each apparently identical, but actually unique. However realistic they may seem, these life-sized sunflower seed husks are in fact intricately hand-crafted in porcelain.
Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. Far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space, the 100 million seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape.
Porcelain is almost synonymous with China and, to make this work, Ai Weiwei has manipulated traditional methods of crafting what has historically been one of China’s most prized exports. Sunflower Seeds invites us to look more closely at the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon and the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today.