Sunday, November 28, 2010


I think an artist who is clear on their intent make a stronger artist. I know that sounds stupid and basic, but believe me, there are many artists out there simply throwing up and tagging it art without understanding (or caring) what just took place, which is cool, I guess... just doesn't draw me into their world.

I am the first to admit that I can get too complicated in the theoretical art process (note to heidi...). It’s hard not to keep adding more and more stuff to a work. There’s a fine line between complexity and complicated in telling your story. A complicated piece can tend to remain... well... complicated. And that can overshadow an artist’s ultimate message. A complex piece has layers yet to be discovered. And that can pull a viewer into your world.

Does that make sense?

To be clear about your intent is really important, because when you are done with your work and feel you have expressed what it is you want to say, all sorts of things can go awry -things completely out of your control. The work itself must be able to stand on its own.

I visited Ai Wei Wei’s installation Sunflower Seeds at the Tate Modern. 

Talk about a complex piece with intent.

This exhibit had quite a buzz circling about it due to all the media attention Aei Wei Wei has received and also due to outside circumstances which required changes to the installation. Even with these physical changes to the installation the work remains a really beautiful piece.

The exhibit is made up of more than 100 million individually handmade porcelain replicas of sunflower seed husks, painted entirely by hand. The millions and millions of sunflower seeds (which are not sunflower seeds) fill a long large hall.

The piece is a thought-provoking commentary about society, our place in society, isolation, the beauty of a single amid the masses, and mass production. It is a complex piece that is exhibited in a very uncomplicated manner.

Initially, people were able to walk through the seeds. They would lay down, roll about freely through the installation, pick up the seeds, squeeze them through their toes. They would stand in the seeds and stare.

However due to health concerns, the viewers' interaction with the piece has changed. Walking freely amongst the seeds was put to an end, and to stop the pilfering of seeds the installation could no longer be placed at arm’s reach. Museum attendants now drift between the viewer and the seeds.

I enjoy Ai Wei Wei’s stuff. His artistic abilities are strong. Whether I agree with his point of view or not, he is always clear with his intent. Ai Wei Wei understands how to emote artistically, politically and poetically through his works. His pieces, initially seeming minimalist, can be very complex. 

Now static and physically detached, Sunflower Seeds feels as if you are looking upon a vast sea from the shore. You physically move towards it. You feel isolated among it. You want to touch it. You want to be a part of it. You want to just stare. The sound of crunching seeds is gone, except for the video which is shown outside the hall. The silence in the hall sometimes was overwhelming.

Same everything, different experience. Even with the Tate’s installation issues for this piece, Sunflower Seeds  remains poetically very, very strong.

When an artist has intent and things go awry, who knows, something explosive or subtle may take place. Perhaps something will happen never imagined by the artist. Even toxic porcelain dust can create a very complex layer indeed.

Watch the 15 minute video below, being shown at the exhibit. Click on "full screen" to really enjoy its beauty:

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