Ai Weiwei Uniliver Series 2010

Quotes from a conversation with Ai Weiwei on 31 May 2010 and 1 June 2010, Beijing

(with Juliet Bingham and Marko Daniel)

In China, when we grew up, we had nothing … But for even the poorest people, the treat or the treasure we’d have would be the sunflower seeds in everybody’s pockets. 

It’s a work about mass production and repeatedly accumulating the small effort of individuals to become a massive, useless piece of work. 

China is blindly producing for the demands of the market … My work very much relates to this blind production of things. I’m part of it, which is a bit of a nonsense. 

For me, the internet is about how to act as an individual and at the same time to reach massive numbers of unknown people … I think this changes the structure of society all the time – this kind of massiveness made up of individuals. 

Useless or useful: it all relates to value judgement and aesthetic judgement. 

From a very young age I started to sense that an individual has to set an example in society. Your own acts or behaviour tell the world who you are and at the same time what kind of society you think it should be. 

I always want to design a frame or structure that can be open to everybody. 

Only by encouraging individual freedom, or the individual power of the mind, and by trusting our own feelings, can collective acts be meaningful. 

I wouldn’t say I’ve become more radical: I was born radical. 

I spend very little time just doing ‘art as art’. 

I try not to see art as a secret code.