Ai Weiwei – Sunflower Seeds | Artist Interview | Tate

Ai Weiwei – Sunflower Seeds | Artist Interview | Tate

start? ok huh yeah At first people would have the impression
those are real sunflower seeds. Because they are fake seeds, it takes them a while to
adjust their mind is they would always say: Is that possible? Then they would pick up a few Some would even want to put them in their mouth to try. I always think art as a tool to really
set up new questions to create a basic structure which can be open to
possibilities. It is most interesting part in my work. I want people who don’t understand art to understand what I am doing Normally the porcelain production requires around 30 stages. And you cannot really escape from it The sunflower seeds are made in a town called Jingdezhen. It’s about 1000km from Beijing. In the old times, the whole town made porcelain for the Emperor’s court. For generations people tried to refine the shape of a bowl or a vase. And there was a very fixed language. We have been working here for five or six years. To try to find out what are the possibilities of employing the old technique to modern contemporary language. They should be kept small. Make it smaller. Here we have an incomplete piece Yes there is a missing bit, like a mouse has nibbled it. Because of the quantity it takes around 1600 people and more in this town so that means almost everybody knows somebody making sunflower seeds. Even the taxi drivers would take about it but nobody really understands. If you tell them it’s for an exhibition, nobody understands why you have accept this. This one you cannot find it anymore. This was from the time of Fu Jia Yuan. I can’t take so many of these. Choose choose. How much is this one? 50 RMB each. I’ll give you 300 RMB -This is 260 RMB
-No, I’ll give 200 RMB. I’ve bought so much, how can you charge this? Yes it’s a very funny position. You
realise people start telling you oh, he’s the one making sunflower seeds and we really love your work and can you give us more work? – Are you happy to work on this?
– Yes, yes! Of course. It brings business There is nothing much to do here anymore The actual production is very much like in the old times. You have a group of people working together. Different people take on different procedures. When it comes to the painting procedure. It needs the most people because every side takes about three to four strokes. The more skillful ones take three strokes, and some may take four or five. You can also bring them home because that is a really the old tradition people produce things at home you know you can work for one hour then you have to feed your child then you have to cook for your husband maybe go out to buy vegetables then work for another half hour waiting for food to be cooked that’s really a good way to work. She is the oldest amongst us. Auntie, how old are you? Me? Sixty That’s good, just a little older than me. Are you kidding? I am over fifty. So how long have you been in this trade? Me? Over thirty years. I have done this for over thirty years. Colour painting? Yes colour painting. Did you ever paint… Mao Zedong? I was working while Mao Zedong was still alive but I never painted him. Not everyone can paint him In the political area all the paintings have sunflower seeds. Whenever Chairman Mao comes out, there are sunflowers around him. That means Chairman Mao is the sun. And all the people loyalto the party are the sunflowers. Sunflowers supported the whole revolution, spiritually and in material ways. Thanks for painting so many sunflower seeds. No need to thanks me. After all I did earn some money from it. How much effort did you put it? How much effort? After all, I have earned about 2000 to 3000 RMB. They are all nice people You feel like you might have to make some more or make some other kind of project which can meet their needs. I think the quantity we made for Tate is already beyond imagination and it is going to be some kind of myth in the history of this town.

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100 Replies to “Ai Weiwei – Sunflower Seeds | Artist Interview | Tate”

  1. Fascinante obra. Exposició gratuita d' A Wi Wei a la Virreina. Mejor con visita guiada para entender un poco al autor y sus razones.

  2. What a gigantic waste of money, resources, and most importantly the time of all of those workers. This is stupid.

  3. Ai Weiwei has gone to the present and historical heart of Chinese porcelain production, brought people together and given them a paid task to complete, and more importantly made a very powerful statement about the history of the Chinese people all in sunflower seeds. I think its astounding!

  4. Ai Weiwei is a political pawn manipulated by the west with the illusionary idea of freedom, the art of Ai Weiwei only exist in reaction to this impression, which is one of acceptance and inclusion whereas in reality discrimination and maintained separatism is at the core of british art / cultural and society, see Arts Council’s Creative Case for Diversity;

    I would question whether Ai Weiwei work is actually art at all if it is influenced by reaction he becomes a tool for propaganda and of course he functions to elevate curators
    and make celebrities feel good about themselves, hey! we helped a poor suppressed chinaman, and of course political points for governments that focus on (selected) human rights violations only to draw attention away from their objectives which is one of self interest.

  5. have been lived in Beijing for 8 years and am now living in London to seek further study and have just visited the exhibition of AI WEIWEI in Royal Academic of Arts. What I want to say about Beijing is, it is quite crowded because there are so many many people there, to seek their future or old dreams, this is where the people, especially the youth can have an opportunity to change what they want. Beijing vs China is like London vs UK. I was taking underground to get off work and go to work, its hard to imagine how bad I feel about the pressure and crowd. However, what can I do? how can I balance my dream and reality? I feel kind of lost in thinking about this. In my field, how can I to expand art? the let more people enjoy the process and beautiful environment in art, that is quite difficult to change, considering the education system, people balance , society, freedom, and social norm about capital and spiritual enjoyment. While I know, every social system has its own ads and disads, you can't ignore Beijing has given to you and help to you even though I know there is much to be done and changed and predicted. Also, people are changing too, so I will give my hope to Beijing.

  6. I saw his exhibition five years ago in Knoxville Tennessee. A pile of sunflower seed was the highlight of the exhibition, which I couldn't really understand why. I loved all the other pieces though. And now this explains. Really nice work!!

  7. I saw his exhibition five years ago in Knoxville Tennessee. A pile of sunflower seed was the highlight of the exhibition, which I couldn't really understand why at that time. I loved all the other pieces though. And now this explains. Really nice work!!

  8. Thanks God for these one or two artists we always seem to focus on. WE have Warholitis. The world can only focus on one artist at a time it seems. What a disgrace

  9. What kind of translation is this? On the 9:46, Ai says: so you don't paint everyone, but the translation is not everyone can paint him(Mao). What kind of purpose is this?

  10. WEI WEI is a very good weapon for the NATO in order to attack China . Have this always in your mind .

  11. What is this concept behind this? I understand the 'made in china' comment but is there something to do with the idea of standing on the little people or walking over them?

  12. for me it will cause me to look more carefully at a sunflower seed shell when I eat seeds in shells. the shells are pretty and it is surprising that a plant can produce so many pretty little shells

  13. I miss any sustainable effect on the community. Money are not that long-lasting purpose of this art. Please, could anyone explain this?

  14. really sorry but if i were one of the porcelain craftsmen, i wouldn't want anyone walking on my work. also, what if people pocketed some of them?

  15. One needs to understand the meaning of a sunflower seed to the Chinese government to understand why the piece is so sad and why the government doesn't like him.

  16. Although I really like this idea and the effort all these nice people put into it, but I cannot understand why this man is taking credit for other people's work. Yes he came up with the idea but didn't actually do anything.

    If you can enlighten me, feel free to. I want to understand that so bad.

  17. Wow, this is truly amazing! So much work went into this project…..and made lots of people happy they had a job. The people who made these sunflower seeds start to finish put lots of love and soul in making them and it shows. Just gorgeous, what a production. Great thinking Mr.Wei Wei! Love from Canada…..I am a great fan of your works. 🙂 XO

  18. As a Chinese, I'm really touched by these sunflower seeds. Through them, I can feel the deep love of Ai weiwei to his people.

  19. So it was Weiwei's idea, but howcome the artwork isn't credited to all the people who sat there making and painting seeds for him as well…? XD Also, way too much tilt shift in the cinematic shots.

  20. Overrated and worshiped by the cultural elite. He could place a turd under glass and the critics would praise and wealthy collectors would fall over each other to buy it.

  21. In the end when those seeds poor in so big empty place really make me cry, we are just so small piece in our country, in so similar characters and it is really sad

  22. For anyone who's confused about why this man has done this act, I'm gonna try and explain, I think his art or the colour that seeps from his work is not the actual sunflower seeds visical form. I think what he's doing is he is reviving culture,history and feeding family's. A town that has no use to a government with no heart. This man with some creativity and a bit of cash has done something quite unique, when this went on expedition we would see sunflower seeds, and when it ends, we won't. But that small town has got so much more from making it possible for some fancy art person to look at that expedition and craft works that means nothing in fact. A seed is something that eventually grows into something beautiful, but this seed is stone so we will never witness the outcome. But it is an inside joke to this man. Because the actual growth will come from the making of the seed, and the outcome the culture bonded around it. That is art from a god who will not get his recognition for many years because lack of understanding and unopened minded people. If you noticed it, then your smart!

  23. Numerous sunflower seeds, highly populated country. Ordinary seeds, ordinary people. Cheap seeds, humble labour. People were led blindly in the past. But each seed, each person are respectable, as each one was made by virtuoso. Feel sorry, but that is what it is.
    I never had such a big resonance, he made a great definition of one aspect of China.

  24. This may seem like an ignorant question but can anyone explain how a project like this generates the funds to support the making process?

  25. "Even th taxi drivers.." "And nobody really understands" What ! I guess ppl do have a clue about what he is gettin at here, but I find this guys arrogance a bit annoying.

  26. I'm Chinese and I'm totally touched by the profound layers of this work. The Sunflower Seeds are embodiment of Chinese people yet an output by the Chinese people. They form into one massive body; unanimous as a whole, yet if you look really closely, they have their own identities. As sunflower seeds your destiny is to follow the "sun", yet these seeds will never bloom becoz they're not real, their purpose has been stripped off as it was for the people who made them….I could just go on and on about this work….

  27. After the London exhibition, today was my first saw the real thing in Toronto. Completely amazed by how many people put effort into this project, incredible!!!!!

  28. Love this project. It takes so much to make a people and a work of art. He combines the two. What happened to all the little sculptures after the show?

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