Saturday, 16 October 2010

Sunflower Seeds at the Tate Modern

Has the World gone mad?

On Tuesday the latest exhibition in the Tate Modern’s Unilever Series opened to the public. The piece by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei consist of 100 million hand made, hand painted, porcelain sunflower seeds spread over the floor of the Turbine Hall. Unusually for an artwork, visitors were able to touch, walk on, sit on or even lie on this extraordinary installation.

Sadly, it seems that there is an unanticipated dust issue and, in the name of Health and Safety, we are no longer able to interact with this artwork.

At the time of posting, this was the latest statement from the Tate’s website

Update: Friday 15 October 2010 

Although porcelain is very robust, we have been advised that the interaction of visitors with the sculpture can cause dust which could be damaging to health following repeated inhalation over a long period of time. In consequence, Tate, in consultation with the artist, has decided not to allow members of the public to walk across the sculpture.

The installation is currently viewable from the Turbine Hall bridge. Revisit this page for updates.

Please do not remove any of the seeds.

The request not to remove any of the seeds seems slightly superflous, given that if you are not near enough to breath in the dust, you are probably not near enough to grab a handful of seeds and leg it out through the doors, avoiding rugby tackling security bods on the way!

The problem, if there actually is one, would largely apply to the staff who spend their day raking the thing into shape. They have been supplied with masks to protect their health. I suspect that the average visitor would inhale less dust than they would walking along Oxford Street………..and would spend less time doing so!

It seems to me that if you are not allowed to make any kind of contact then all you are left with is a statistic. I accept that 100 million hand made items, spread out before you, is pretty impressive, but it is just a statistic.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able see it yet, but a friend, who visited yesterday, made the point that looking at it over a barrier was like “looking at an empty parking lot”.

Updates and more information on the artist and his work can be found here

To return to my original question. The answer is, of course, yes!

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