Ai Weiwei 艾未未 is a Chinese contemporary artist and activist who is highly and publicly critical of the Chinese government’s stance on human rights.
Having spent his formative years as an artist in New York in the 1980s, when… conceptual and performance art were dominant, he knows how to combine his life and art into a daring and politically charged performance that helps define how we see modern China. He’ll use any medium or genre—sculpture, ready-mades, photography, performance, architecture, tweets and blogs—to deliver his pungent message.
Ai’s persona—which, as with Warhol’s, is inseparable from his art—draws power from the contradictory roles that artists perform in modern culture. The loftiest are those of martyr, preacher and conscience. Not only has Ai been harassed and jailed, he has also continually called the Chinese regime to account.- Mark Stevens, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/is-ai-weiwei-chinas-most-dangerous-man-17989316/?no-ist
Study ofPerspective (1995 to 2003) is one of Ai Weiwei’s most controversial series, where he photographs himself flipping off important monuments around the world. He describes it as his personal form of rebellion against any government authority who blatantly or covertly disregard the freedoms of its citizens.
There can be a powerful assertion behind a single gesture when used in the proper context. With a raise of his middle finger, Ai champions the social responsibility and individualism of the generation, and shows just how fragile the powerful can truly be.
“There are no outdoor sports as graceful as throwing stones at a dictatorship.” says Ai Weiwei in an interview with BBC Radio 1 – http://www.theplaidzebra.com/that-time-ai-weiwei-flipped-off-the-worlds-most-important-monuments-to-prove-a-point-photos/
Ai Weiwei’s 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.
A short documentary about the process of making Sunflower Seeds can be found here.