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Posts Tagged ‘Turbine Hall’

Ai Weiwei fills Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall with 100 million ceramic sunflower seeds

Posted by artradar on October 19, 2010


AI WEIWEI CHINESE ART TATE MODERN UNILEVER SERIES INSTALLATION SCULPTURE

Ai Weiwei – artist, architectural designer, curator and social commentator – unveils his work for the prestigious Unilever Series for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall – Britain’s largest contemporary art commission. It features the first living artist from the Asia-Pacific region to be commissioned for this series. Guest poster Pippa Dennis provides an in-depth look into the production and exhibition of this breakthrough installation.

Sunflower Seeds by Ai Weiwei is a sensory and immersive installation which sees the vast 1000 square meters of the Turbine Hall covered with over a hundred million porcelain replicas of sunflower seeds, ten centimetres deep and weighing in at 150 metric tons. Each seed is individually made, intricately handcrafted by over 1600 expert artisans brought together specifically for this project in the city of Jingdezhen, home to porcelain manufacturers since the days of Imperial China.

Each ceramic seed goes through a process of twenty to thirty steps in its production, they are molded, fired and ultimately hand painted. The artist jokes that he made a few himself, but his contribution was hastily rejected by the artisans in charge, such was the level of craftsmanship involved.

Ai Weiwei. Image courtesy of Tate Modern.

“Ai Weiwei has created a truly unique experience for visitors to this year’s Unilever Series. The sense of scale and quality of craftsmanship achieved in each perfectly formed sunflower seed is astonishing. In trying to comprehend their sheer quantity, Ai provokes a multitude of ideas, from the way we perceived number and value, to the way we engage with society at large.” Sheena Wagstaff, Chief Curator, Tate Modern

Initially, the audience was invited to touch, walk on and listen to the seeds shifting beneath their feet. Image courtesy of Pippa Dennis.

The effect is a highly simplistic and subtle creation, yet complex and powerful in its depth and potential for interpretation. The sunflower itself is a profoundly symbolic object for Chinese people. A common street snack shared by friends and enjoyed by everyone, but requiring a certain skill in breaking the husk and releasing the seed in a singular movement of the teeth and tongue. For the artist it has more personal significance as he remembers it as a staple during the Mao years when material goods were virtually non-existent and food was in short supply. At this time he remembers the sharing of them as a gesture of human kindness and generosity in a period of extreme poverty and uncertainty. It was also a symbol adopted by the Communists. Propaganda pictures from this era depict Mao as the sun, and the mass of people as sunflowers turning towards him.

Ai has used the sunflower seed repeatedly in his work since his period in New York, such as Hanging Man (1983), and here this simple motif works to examine the concepts of mass production and traditional craftsmanship, an important aspect of Ai Weiwei’s work. The phenomena of “Made in China” and the association that accompanies it – repetition, copying and mass production – are all themes deeply rooted in Chinese tradition whilst recently they have taken on a new significance in the current geopolitics of cultural and economic exchange.

Ai Weiwei believes the role of the artist is not only about raising issues but transforming them. Here the seeds also raise questions about ourselves and society, what does it mean to be an individual in China, an individual in this world? Individualism in China was heavily criticized during the Mao years but now with its radical economic and urban transformation China’s attitude is starting to shift, particularly amongst the younger generations. Ai has commented “From a very young age, I started to sense that an individual has to set an example in society. Your own acts and behaviour tell the world who you are and at the same time what kind of society you think it should be”.

Each seed is individually made, intricately handcrafted by over 1600 expert artisans brought together specifically for this project... and goes through a process of twenty to thirty steps in its production, they are molded, fired and ultimately hand painted. Image courtesy of the Londonist.com.

Each seed is individually made, intricately handcrafted by over 1600 expert artisans brought together specifically for this project ... and goes through a process of twenty to thirty steps in its production, they are molded, fired and ultimately hand painted. Image courtesy of Londonist.com.

Ai Weiwei’s work has always had an element of political and social commentary and he has not only become an important contemporary artist on the international stage but also a leader of social thought in China and the world. He comments, “My art may be political but I never intended to create political art”. However in recent years these themes, particularly for public commissions, have become increasingly prominent and in interviews and on his blog he openly criticises the Chinese government, calling for freedom of press and speaking up for human rights. He has always said his life is ready-made, “I’m my own ready-made”, acknowledging his most significant influence, Marcel Duchamp.

Life for the artist is art, politics and exchange. The act of individuals voicing their opinions and communicating with one another is of great importance to him and his practice. In Remembering (2009), he harnessed the powers of the Internet to recruit two hundred local and regional participants in the research and archiving of the names of the children who lost their lives in the Sichuan earthquake. This project resulted in five thousand names being collated and recorded and is considered the first civil rights activity in China.

In Sunflower Seeds, he harnesses the powers of social media to take his “social sculpture” to another level. Combining online and video technologies, this commission has enabled the artist to engage in a global dialogue about the work. Below the Turbine Hall, Ai Weiwei has installed a series of video booths to record questions and comments to the artist, whilst outside the Turbine Hall the audience can connect with the artist via Twitter. One to One with the Artist also marks a milestone in the Tate’s use of new media technology and the Internet, transforming the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern into a hub of global conversation.

Marc Sands, director of audiences and media at the Tate said,

“In recent years, Tate Media has found a variety of new ways for visitors to engage with the Unilever Series commissions, from iPhone apps to interactive websites. Ai Weiwei’s own passion for new communication technologies has made it possible for us to develop something really special this year, which we hope people around the world will enjoy”.

'Sunflower Seeds' (2010). Image courtesy of Tate Modern.

'Sunflower Seeds' (2010). Image courtesy of Tate Modern.

Originally, the audience was invited to touch, walk on and listen to the seeds shifting beneath their feet. However, after a very enthusiastic response from visitors, staff noticed a fine dust rising off of the seeds, and after it was confirmed that the dust “could be damaging to health following repeated inhalation over a long period of time”, the Tate was forced to cordon the sculpture off. Visitors are still invited to view the installation “from a walkway above the hall.”

The immediate critical response has been extremely positive. The Guardian’s Adrian Searle comments, “I love it. It is a world in a hundred million objects. It is also a singular statement, in a familiar, minimal form – like Wolfgang Laib’s floor-bound rectangles of yellow pollen, Richard Long’s stones or Antony Gormley’s fields of thousands of little humanoids. Sunflower Seeds, however, is better. It is audacious, subtle, unexpected but inevitable. It is a work of great simplicity and complexity. Sunflower Seeds refers to everyday life, to hunger (the seeds were a reliable staple during the Cultural Revolution), to collective work, and to an enduring Chinese industry.”

The Telegraph’s Richard Dorment observes, “For the 11th commission in the Unilever Series, Tate Modern has offered the poisoned chalice to the Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei – and he’s come up with a masterpiece.”

With the seeming success of this event and Tate Modern’s curatorial commitment to show art from new territories, we can look forward to more opportunities to see art from the Asia-Pacific region in such significant spaces as London’s premier contemporary art museum.

About Pippa Dennis

Pippa Dennis is a Chinese art specialist based in London. She has an MA in Art History and spent ten years making documentaries for the BBC before living in Shanghai and working at Eastlink Gallery. She subsequently set up Asia Art Forum, an educational platform to promote the understanding of Asian contemporary art.

HH/KN

 

Related Topics: Chinese artists, installation art, participatory art, political art, London art

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Leading non-profit institutions gathered by Tate Modern for art event: Art Radar Asia lists Asian participants

Posted by artradar on July 8, 2010


TATE MODERN ARTS FESTIVALS ASIAN ART INSTITUTIONS LISTS

In celebration of the Tate Modern‘s tenth birthday, thirteen Asian art institutions were invited to join global arts festival No Soul For Sale: A Festival of Independents in early May this year. The event brought over seventy independent art spaces, non-profit organisations and artists’ collectives from across the world to the Turbine Hall, indicating which institutions the Tate considers leading in the global art scene.

Read on for more about the thirteen Asian art organisations in attendance at No Soul For Sale. (Listed in alphabetical order.)

98 Weeks – Beirut

Initiated in 2007 as an artist organisation devoted to research on one topic in depth for 98 weeks, 98 Weeks has also become a non-profit project space since 2009 and has been organising workshops, seminars, reading groups and other art activities in Beirut. The project space is committed to providing a gallery for artists to research and develop ideas, exhibitions and artworks; a platform where artists, cultural practitioners and neighbors are welcome to propose ideas and a space to enhance self organised initiatives and the sharing of artistic resources.

Arthub Asia – China

Arthub Asia

'Crazy English', a performance by the Shanghai-based Chinese artist Zhou Xiaohu, was staged in No Soul For Sale 2010

Being a multi-disciplinary organisation dedicated to creating arts in China and the rest of Asia, Arthub Asia is devoted to initiating and delivering ambitious projects through a sustained dialogue with visual, performance and new media artists as well as collaborations with museums and public/private spaces and institutions. It is a collaborative production lab, a creative think tank and  a curatorial research platform. Initially conceived to support the non-profit BizArt Art Centre through structural funding in 2007, Arthub Asia has facilitated more than 110 activities in China and the rest of Asia and has become the major provider of structural support not only for artists working in China and across Asia, but also for a global community of leading curators, art professionals and producers.

Alternative Space LOOP – Korea

Devoted to defining alternative Asian art and culture by confronting Western-oriented globalisation, Alternative Space LOOP is committed to the search for young defiant emerging artists, promotion of connections between visual arts and other genres, establishment of international networks of alternative spaces, support for creative activities and better environments for exhibition. The art space, which was established in 1999, has been planning to expand its size since 2005.

Arrow Factory – Beijing

Located in a small hutong alley in Beijing’s city center, Arrow Factory is self-funded, independently run art space that can be visited 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. It is committed to presenting works that are highly contingent upon the immediate environment and responsive to the diverse economic, political and social conditions of the locality. Founded in 2008, Arrow Factory was initiated as a response to commercially defined contemporary art in Beijing, which is also increasingly confined to purpose-built art districts in the remote outskirts of the city.

Artis – Israel

With the firm belief that artists are cultural emissaries and agents of social change, Artis aims at expanding the innovative practices of Israeli artists around the world and aiding them to reach global audiences by holding cultural exhibitions and events. Since its establishment in 2004, it has been running numerous art-related programs including curatorial research trips to Israel, a grant program for international exhibitions and events, international commissions, performances, events, talks and an active website with artist profiles, articles, videos, news, and events.

Barbur - Jerusalem

Barbur - Jerusalem

Barbur – Jerusalem

Founded in 2005 at the heart of Jerusalem, Barbur is an independent nonprofit space for art and artists with the aim of being a platform for critical debate that deals with social issues while developing projects with local communities through monthly exhibitions and weekly screenings, lectures, workshops, music performances and other events.

Collective Parasol – Japan

Founded in January 2010, Collective Parasol is a private organisation for art and social-cultural activity. It is run by its artists, curators, a filmmaker, an art law specialist and an art student. It provides an open-ended platform for a wide range of projects and aims to establish a new form of “collective” that questions the solidarity, essentiality and possibility of artist collectives/communities and alternative spaces. Each member organises his or her own projects, puts together an idea with other members and collaborates with guests from a wide range of fields who are working within creative projects. The platform can take the form of a café, gallery, theater, studio, residency, meeting place for local people… the list is essentially endless. Collective Parasol is open to non-members who can use the space, equipment, and technical support.

Green Papaya Art Projects – the Phillipines

Founded in 2000, Green Papaya Art Projects is the longest running independently run creative multidisciplinary platform in the Philippines which specialises in exploring tactical approaches to the production, dissemination, research and presentation of contemporary practices in various artistic and scholarly fields. It tries to be a platform for critical intellectual exchanges and creative-practical collaboration among the artistic community.

PiST///Interdisciplinary Project Space - Istanbul

PiST///Interdisciplinary Project Space - Istanbul

Para/Site Art Space – Hong Kong

Founded in 1996 in Hong Kong, Para/Site Art Space is devoted to bringing leading international practitioners to Asia, increasing the visibility of Hong Kong artists and facilitating East-West dialogues through an ambitious program of exhibitions, screenings, talks and events.  It is a platform for artists and other art practitioners to realise their vision in relation to their immediate and extended communities with the aim of nurturing a thoughtful and creative society.

PiST///Interdisciplinary Project Space – Istanbul

PiST///Interdisciplinary Project Space is a non-profit art space in Istanbul that produces new and experimental works which explore urban environments, everyday life and public/private space conflicts through collaborative experimental work with local and international art professionals. The art space acts as a runway for local and international art professionals to land on and take off from.

Post-Museum – Singapore

Founded in Singapore in 2007, Post-Museum is an independent cultural and social space dedicated to encouraging and supporting a thinking and pro-active community through providing an open platform for examining contemporary life, promoting the arts and connecting people.

Sala-Manca + Mamuta – Jerusalem

Sala-Manca is a group of independent Jerusalem-based artists who stage performances and create videos, installations and new media works which deal with the poetics of translation (cultural, mediatic and social), with textual, urban and net contexts and with the tensions between low tech and high tech aesthetics, as well as social and political issues. Having produced and curated Heara (comment) events, it has also published the art journal (H)Earat Shulaym without any external official, political or economic support.  It founded and directs Mamuta, a platform that promotes artistic experimentation as well as social and political engagement through providing studios, a residency program and production labs that facilitate exchange and dialogue between artists.

Sàn Art – Vietnam

Sàn Art is an independent, artist-run exhibition space and reading room in Ho Chi Minh City that supports the country’s thriving artist community by providing an exhibition space, residency programs for young artists, lecture series and an exchange program that invites international artists and curators to organise or collaborate on exhibitions.

CBKM/KN

Related Topics: Asian artists, non-profit arts, art events

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Posted in Art spaces, Artist Nationality, Asian, Business of art, Chinese, Events, Festival, Filipino, Israeli, Japanese, Korean, Lists, London, Nonprofit, Promoting art, UK, Venues, Vietnamese | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »