The Power of Quantity in Ai Weiweis Sunflower Seeds


Can quantity be a type of power��Perhaps, this question will be answered by the work titled Sunflower Seeds produced by Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei. In 2010, London Tate Modern Museum invited Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to exhibit his installation "Sunflower Seeds" at Turbine Hall. It consisted of 100 million hand-made porcelain sunflower seeds, and all of which were scattered on the ground in a large scale. Obviously, this installation embodied Ai Weiwei��s artistic strategy of using the notion of quantity. Ai is interested in large number, because, rhetorically, it allows him to explore China��s status as superpower with a large population. In this work, every seed was slightly different, but its individuality disappeared when they were accumulated in such a large number. It visually symbolized the status of Chinese people - although they are individually different, when they gather together they are totally generic. The reason historically relates to the value system of Confucian doctrine and Communist ideology, because both of them praise the value of collectivism and suppress that of the individualism. Therefore, Sunflower Seeds revealed a paradox between the collective and the individual that is historically rooted in the ideological impact on Chinese people. By exploring how Ai Weiwei used the porcelain sunflower seeds as a metaphor for the Chinese people, this essay will argue that quantity is a type of power to examine the issue of the collective and the individual in the ideological context.

Author Information
Yanhua Zhou, Southwest University, China

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2015
Stream: Arts - Visual Arts Practices

This paper is part of the ACAH2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon