diamond geezer

 Friday, October 15, 2010

Ai Weiwei @TateModern
Sunflower Seeds

Every year at the Tate, something different. Metal slides, a pile of boxes, one big crack, a bright shining sun. And for 2010, a hundred million sunflower seeds. They're not real, they're made of porcelain. Every tiny seed has been hand-crafted by an army of Chinese workers. Every ceramic nugget is identical yet different. And they've all been shipped over to London to be scattered deep across the floor of the Turbine Hall. Fancy a scrunchy walk across the broad grey carpet? Well bad luck, because it's closed.

Sunflower Seeds

Well, it was closed yesterday when I went along after work. It had been closed earlier in the day, it was closed for the rest of the afternoon, and I'd expect it to be closed again today too. Staff had draped a barrier across from one side of the hall to the other, dividing the audiovisual extras from the exhibit proper. Closed for essential maintenance, said a sign, and that was the limit of the information available. "When will it reopen?" asked a group of ladies (who'd come here specially) to one of the Tate's nearby members of staff. No clues. They tried a grinning bloke in a purple jacket instead, but he just grinned. No chance of stomping across the granular playground, nor even stealing one of the painted kernels, not today.

Lack of activity made for a very tidy exhibit. With the public removed there'd been nothing to do all afternoon but sweep and smooth the tiny particles into a nigh perfect cuboid. Very wide, very very long, and not quite as thick as I was expecting. On the nearest margin it was possible to distinguish individual seeds, but looking further back they merged into an indistinguishable mass [photo]. One set of footsteps created hollows partway along the righthand wall, but every other trace of human activity had been studiously scraped away. A man with a rake walked up and down the lefthand side, occasionally stopping to push seeds off the path and firm them up into a miniature cliff [photo]. The viewing public watched, for lack of any other way to interact, and wondered whether he might soon stop and announce that the installation had reopened. No such luck. No hint either why he was wearing a facemask, although perhaps we should have wondered more.

Apparently there's been a Health and Safety 'issue'. Not with people slipping or falling over, which is the usual Turbine Hall drawback, but with dust. Porcelain's renowned for being dusty, and 100 million trampled chunks have thrown up a lot of the stuff. Inhaling a lot of porcelain dust is dangerous because it can build up in your lungs and lead to pneumoconiosis (and potentially death). You'd probably have to spend three months at the Tate sniffling around on all fours for it to be a serious problem, but you know what public health risks are like. Can't be too careful.

Hopefully they'll sort out the dust issue before Easter. And lucky you if you went exploring on Tuesday or Wednesday, because it's simply not seedy enough standing on the sidelines.

Update: Ah, bugger, they've closed it to the public permanently. Now all you'll be able to do is look, from a distance, but never touch. I feel really sorry for the 1000+ Chinese workers who spent months painting the individual seeds, because all their handiwork will now be completely invisible. Whoever planned this public installation clearly didn't think things through carefully enough. As an artistic achievement, Ai Weiwei's exhibit remains remarkable. But as a purely visual spectacle it's rubbish, so don't bother.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream