Sunflower Seed Analysis

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Does Ai Weiwei’s “Sunflower Seeds” reflect the social, political and economic status of China? Justin Boon ARTH-271 Professor Farris Fall 2014 Does Ai Weiwei’s “Sunflower Seeds” reflect the social, political and economic status of China? In order to understand his work, we must first understand Ai Weiwei as an artist, his other works, as well as the inspiration and motivation behind them. We must also understand China as a country and its political climate in order to ascertain a degree of truth. Ai Weiwei is a conceptual artist, architect, designer, and social commentator whose works invariably carry an ironic charge. His “performance”, in effect, is his life. He is the son of the famed poet Ai Qing, who was sent into provincial…show more content…
He said that during the Cultural Revolution, his family was very poor and food was limited, and yet, no matter how rich or poor you were then, you would always have treasure in the form of sunflower seeds. It was in everybody’s pockets, and it was good food because it could be kept without refrigeration for a whole year. Regardless of events, be it a marriage ceremony or a movie, everyone would have these treats. In fact he states that it was a strong memory of Socialist society, and so common that everyone accepted them. He attributes the crack in the front teeth of Chinese people to the consumption of the sunflower seeds. It is as though the seeds had mentally, emotionally and physically shaped the Chinese people of those…show more content…
On May 12, 2008, a massive earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan Province revealed the shoddy quality of schools constructed by the government, leading to the death of thousands of young students. The local government refused to release statistics and other information regarding how many students were killed in the earthquake. On Dec 15, 2008, Ai Weiwei launched a website in an attempt to obtain statistics on the number of school children who had lost their lives during the earthquake. This attracted the attention of the Chinese media and angered officialdom. His refusal to cooperate with the government also attracted a great deal of interest in the West. He continues this criticism of censorship and suppression of information in Munich, 2009, where he had a show titled “So Sorry”. There, he created the installation “Remembering” from 9000 children’s backpacks. They spelt the sentence “She lived happily for seven years in this world” in Mandarin, which was a quote from a mother who lost her child in the earthquake. Ai Weiwei said during an interview that the idea to use the backpacks came from his visit to ground zero, where he saw the bags and study materials of students everywhere, a bright and stark contrast to the disaster. He also released a blog with all the names of the victims, which gained him more recognition in China than any of his previous activities. This brought him trouble
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