For Ai Wewei the act of individuals voicing opinions and communicating with one another is of great importance. From October 2010 to May 2011, visitors to his installation Sunflower Seeds, on show in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, were invited to record a video; either asking him their question or answering one from him. Thousands of questions were asked. This film features a select few.
Sunflower Seeds is made up of millions of small pieces, each apparently identical, but actually unique. However realistic they may seem, these life-sized sunflower seed husks are in fact intricately hand-crafted in porcelain.
M: Yo, Ai Weiwei, what do you think to this?
F: Why did you actually do the seed thing?
AW: Sunflower Seeds - it’s really the most common object in China. No matter where you are or poor or rich, how remote an area, or near the city.
M: What was your reaction when you first saw your work installed in the Turbine Hall?
AW: It was quite a shock. I mean, that is essentially about artwork, it is nothing you really just can talk about it, you have to really experience it.
F: How long did it take to make this?
AW: The total length is about two and a half years.
M: [Chinese spoken 00:01:27]
AW: [Replying in Chinese 00:01:40 – 00:01:49]
F: I just wondered if you think that a work like Sunflower Seeds will be exhibited in China in your lifetime?
AW: Nobody knows how long this political situation in China would stay, or how long it takes for them to change, for them to truly understand the value of creativity. Second, I don’t know how long I will live.
F: How does it feel, seeing all these people’s responses to your artwork?
AW: I think that is the chance for artists to understand their work, even to understand how a work can be expressed and how it has its own life.
F: [Chinese spoken 00:02:42]
AW: [Replying in Chinese 00:02:55]
M: Do you consider, do you sometimes see it to be one piece of art, or a hundred million pieces of art?
AW: Sunflower Seeds, it’s one piece of art which contains one hundred million pieces of art.
M: I’ve created a piece of music to go with the Sunflower Exhibition. Here we go.
F1: I think it’s wonderful. Thank you, Weiwei, wherever you are, and I would love to roll around in it and just feel the experience. It has expanded my consciousness. Thank you!
AW: I am very happy you like the work, and I think the work is really made for you.