Go See – London: The Unilever Series, Ai Weiwei's "Sunflower Seeds" at Tate Modern through May 2nd 2011

December 29th, 2010

Ai Weiwei and his sunflower seeds in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern, via NY Times

Currently on view in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall is Sunflower Seeds (2010) a work by Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei for the 11th commission in the Unilever Series.  The work is made up of a millions of small hand-crafted porcelain works each sculpted and painted uniquely by Chinese specialists working in workshops in the small town of Jingdezhen. Hundreds of skilled hands worked together to produce the 100 million sunflower seeds poured into the Turbine Hall’s vast space.


Sunflower Seeds (2010) by Ai Weiwei , via Tate Modern

More text and images after the jump…


Installation view of Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds (2010), via The Guardian

Porcelain is often immediately associated with China. In order to create such as work, the artist employed traditional methods of crafting engaging the viewer to ponder the meaning of the “Made in China” explosion and the cultural and historical geopolitics which go along with it.


Sunflower Seeds (2010) by Ai Weiwei, via Tate Modern

Just days after the exhibition opened Tate Modern prevented access to visitors who wished to walk over the millions of porcelain sunflower seeds due to health and safety concerns over ceramic dust generated by walking on top of the seeds.  The installation is meant to be experienced by walking through the artistically conceived sunflower seeds and since the closing of the installation viewers can only view the exhibition from behind a restricted area.   Viewers can now behold the installation from the Turbine Hall bridge or the viewed closely from the east end of the Turbine Hall in Level 1.  Nevertheless, the scale and vision of the work is commendable despite its unanticipated hindrances.

Sunflower Seeds
(2010) by Ai Weiwei, via Tate Modern

The exhibition comes at the same time as the award of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. Ai Weiwei was recently placed on house arrest in Beijing on the orders from the senior Communist party officials in Shanghai who wanted to stop him from holding a celebration of the forced destruction of his Shanghai art studio. The officials were reprimanding the 53-year old artist for promising to feed guests 10,000 “he xie” or “river crabs”, a homonym for the word “harmony” in Chinese, as well as talk of a “harmonious society.”

Ai Weiwei holding his sunflower seeds in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, via The Guardian

China’s most famous artist, renowned especially for his role as artistic collaborator to the Bird’s Nest Stadium at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the artist is also a voice of great dissent. Ai Weiwei demands free speech and democracy for the people of China and came to a particular confrontation with the Chinese government over his investigations into the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and the deaths of many school children which followed. As a result, he was severely beaten by the police leading him to suffer a minor brain hemorrhage which had to be corrected with surgery in Germany.

Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds in the Tate Turbine Hall, via The Independent

Related Links:
Exhibition Page [Tate Modern]
Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds; Canaletto and his Rivals [The Guardian]
Tate Modern’s Sunflower Seeds the world in the palm of your hand [The Guardian]
Painting 100 Million Sunflower Seeds: A Futile Art Endeavor? [NPR]
Tate Closes Ai WeiWei’s Sunflower Seeds [Saatchi]
Tate Modern Closes Access to Sunflower Seeds [NY Times ]
What Happened Next? Sunflower Seeds [The Guardian]
Ai Weiwi Blocked from Leaving China
[The Telegraph]
Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds, Tate Modern, review [The Telegraph]
Ai Weiwei interview for Tate Modern Unilever Series
[The Telegraph]                                                                                                Tate stops visitors trampling on sunflower seeds [The Guardian]
Letter from China: Ai Weiwei at the Tate Turbine Hall [The New Yorker]

-R.A. Proctor

Analysis: Nation’s most popular self-help gurus

NPR Special April 29, 2004 | MADELEINE BRAND, ALEX CHADWICK MADELEINE BRAND, ALEX CHADWICK NPR Special 04-29-2004 Analysis: Nation’s most popular self-help gurus



This is DAY TO DAY. I’m Madeleine Brand.

In a few minutes, a man convicted of child molestation fights to clear his name.

But first, we all need a little help at times, and here to help us help ourselves is Alex Chadwick and Slate’s David Plotz. They bring us a review of America’s self-help heroes.


For anyone whose job has recently been offshored, here’s an idea: become a guru. We’re not talking about the religious kind. We mean the kind of secular gurus who claim they can guide Americans toward happiness and wealth and whatever else we don’t have enough of. Believe us, guruing is a growth industry. To help us understand what gurus do and which ones might be best for you, we’ve called on Slate writer David Plotz. David’s done some research on a few of the top purveyors of sage advice. Today he’s here to act as our guru guru.

David, welcome back to DAY TO DAY.

DAVID PLOTZ reporting:

Thank you, Alex.

CHADWICK: All right, let’s get right to it. Let’s say you’re overweight. Your guru should be…

PLOTZ: Dr. Phil.

(Soundbite from “Dr. Phil”)

Dr. PHIL McGRAW (Host): What I’ve wanted you to do is get a self-image and a body image that were congruent so that you felt as good on the inside as you all wanted to look on the outside.

CHADWICK: His sacred text is…

PLOTZ: “The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom.”

CHADWICK: You trust Dr. Phil because…

PLOTZ: Oprah trusts him.

CHADWICK: His style?

PLOTZ: Southern-fried aggression.

CHADWICK: What Dr. Phil says.

PLOTZ: `Do you get the fact that if you don’t do what you need to do, that I will drag your lazy ass out of bed and get you to school, get you to the track to do whatever it is you’ve got to do to get in this game of life and start playing’?

CHADWICK: What Dr. Phil means. website 7 habits of highly effective people

PLOTZ: `You’re a fat slob. But if you listen to me, you don’t have to be.’

CHADWICK: Dr. Phil costs…

PLOTZ: The bleacher seats at the Get Real Tour, $55.

CHADWICK: And you could get the same advice cheaper from…

PLOTZ: Your thin, obnoxious sister.

CHADWICK: OK for overweight and Dr. Phil. Now let’s say you’re broke. Your guru should be…

PLOTZ: Suze Orman.

(Soundbite from program)

Ms. SUZE ORMAN (Host): I have to tell you, I think money does make the world go around, not so much in that you need money to be happy, but I’ll tell you, lack of money sure will make you miserable.

CHADWICK: Suze Orman’s sacred text?

PLOTZ: “The Courage to Be Rich.”

CHADWICK: You trust her because…

PLOTZ: She used to be a waitress.

CHADWICK: The Suze Orman style.

PLOTZ: Ruthless common sense, veneer of kindness.

CHADWICK: What she says.

PLOTZ: People first, then money, then things.

CHADWICK: What she means.

PLOTZ: Money first.

CHADWICK: Your sneaking suspicion.

PLOTZ: She thinks you’re incredibly dumb.

CHADWICK: And Suze Orman will cost…

PLOTZ: A copy of “The Courage to Be Rich,” $14.

CHADWICK: OK, next guru. You did not get promoted to VP for marketing; your guru is…

PLOTZ: Stephen Covey.

(Soundbite of program)

Mr. STEPHEN COVEY: A person should have a sense of vision, a sense of larger thinking about the long run and about the values that they want to live by and the purposes they want to go after.

CHADWICK: The Stephen R. Covey sacred text.

PLOTZ: “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

CHADWICK: You trust him because…

PLOTZ: All your bosses read him.

CHADWICK: The Covey style.

PLOTZ: Cheerful jargon.

CHADWICK: What he says.

PLOTZ: `In an interdependent situation, every P problem is a PC opportunity, a chance to build the emotional bank accounts that significantly affect interdependent production.’

CHADWICK: What he means.

PLOTZ: Be nicer and write a mission statement.

CHADWICK: And the Covey cost.

PLOTZ: Three-day “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” workshop, $1,495.

CHADWICK: And you could get the same advice more expensively from…

PLOTZ: A McKinsey consultant.

CHADWICK: All right, the guru hat trick now. Let’s say you are overweight, you are also broke and you did not get promoted to vice president for marketing. Your guru should be…

PLOTZ: Tony Robbins.

(Soundbite of program)

Mr. TONY ROBBINS: Decide to develop the habit right now, the habit of focusing on what’s right in your world instead of what’s wrong, the habit of focusing on what you do have instead of what you don’t have in a situation. go to website 7 habits of highly effective people

CHADWICK: The Tony Robbins sacred text.

PLOTZ: “Awaken the Giant Within.”

CHADWICK: You trust him because…

PLOTZ: He’s about 12 feet tall.

CHADWICK: His style.

PLOTZ: Egomaniacal exhortation sprinkled with pop neuroscience.

CHADWICK: What Tony Robbins says.

PLOTZ: `Associate massive pain to not changing now and massive pleasure to the experience of changing now.’

CHADWICK: What he means.

PLOTZ: You’re weak. I will make you strong.

CHADWICK: He will cost…

PLOTZ: Unleash the Power Within three-day arena seminar, $695.

CHADWICK: And you could get the same advice cheaper from…

PLOTZ: Your high school basketball coach.

CHADWICK: Slate writer David Plotz. David will be back tomorrow with a few more of the gurus Americans find indispensable. You can find his article on gurus at slate.com.

David Plotz, thanks for joining us again.

PLOTZ: Thank you, Alex.

BRAND: This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News.