My rather childish response to the demolition of 51 beautiful, healthy native trees in the valley behind my house

A student using my scissors to cut the chain the chain they’re attached to


First, I spent time with an object that meant something to me, observing, sketching, thinking, exploring, making notes, taking photos, using free association to unlock ideas. The object I chose was the necklace that I’ve worn around my neck for the last 10 years.  On the chain is a little gold pair of scissors. The idea was to study this necklace and transform it, create a work of art inspired by it, using any medium.  Once I’d finished the transformation, I repeated the process several times, letting each stage inform the next. To read more about the process, you can click through the gallery below.



The newspaper chains of the previous sculpture reminded me of how much we are shaped, informed and manipulated by the world, media and people around us. The headlines I cut from the paper were transformed several times, first when I read and projected my own interpretation onto them, then when I removed them from their original context, and again when I placed them alongside other cuttings to form a loose narrative. Once I’d turned them into links, they were curved and the words partially hidden so that only certain parts of the sentences could be seen, and what was seen varied depending on the position of the viewer. What was visible was transformed yet again by the personal interpretation of each of those viewers ….  The only way the headlines or sentences could be seen and read in full was after the links had been broken away from each other and laid out flat on the table or wall.

This made me realise that no matter what face we think we are showing to the world, or what we believe we are communicating, no one can ever truly know or relate to the full story. What others see is profoundly influenced by their previous experiences, personality, beliefs, abilities, cultural background, education and so on.

Sometimes, the only way to make sense of things is to separate each individual thought, idea, memory, sensation, from the rest of the background noise and lay it out in isolation. While it is true that we are the sum of all our parts, each of those parts takes on an entirely different meaning when viewed in relation to any or all of the others. Exploring one at a time has been an extremely enlightening experience for me.

From this reflection I formed the idea of using blank crossword puzzles to cover the Rubix cube, a challenge I had never been able to complete as a child, but I’d always found crosswords relatively easy and fun.

While playing with the cube I noticed that no matter how many times I shuffled the segments, the central squares always stayed in the middle. I placed a printed image of the cardboard scissors (which had come to represent my self) in the middle on all six sides, to show that no matter how much background noise or chaos surrounds us in life, we can weather all the twists and turns if we are able to stay true and stable at the core.

(click on the images below for more information)


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Things from my Things Drawer

I was inspired to make this piece while contemplating the little gold charm bracelet that I’ve worn almost every day for over 20 years. It struck me how little it would be worth to anyone but me, as the true value is in the meaning attached to each individual charm, all the memories preserved and provoked when I look at them.

Each charm has a complete, standalone story of its own, and when linked together on a single chain they become part of an even more intricate and meaningful whole.  A metaphor for life, really, as who we are is the sum of our myriad parts, all invaluable.

I have always had a “things” drawer in my kitchen, a Purgatory for random objects that don’t fit or belong anywhere else. Some are waiting to be useful again, some waiting to be repaired, some waiting for their pair to show up, and some have been in there so long that the outside world has forgotten they exist.

This things drawer has been moved from rental house to rental house over the years, and i thought it was time to explore it. Spending so long with each random piece, cleaning it, preparing its surface and gilding it, then linking them all together was quite an amazing experience. Every single seemingly insignificant castaway had a story to remind me of. Every single thing had once had purpose, played a part in my life. Remembering the tiny ways in which each object had served me over the years prompted all the surrounding memories to surface. I was able to see patterns and links and make sense of the chaos. It was just the start of a very important and ongoing process.

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Controversial Artist Ai Weiwei allowed to see family

Ai Weiwei plays with his installation Sunflower Seeds, at its opening in the Tate Modern (REUTERS)

Mr Ai, the creator of the Tate Modern’s Sunflower Seeds exhibition, was allowed to spend 20 minutes with his wife, Lu Qing, at a secret location on Sunday afternoon, helping to dispel online rumours that he had been tortured.

He seemed conflicted, contained, his face was tense, Lu told the Associated Press, “I could see redness in his eyes. It was obvious that without freedom to express himself he was not behaving naturally even with me, someone from his family.”

She added that the people who arranged the visit showed no identification and warned her not to speak about anything except family or health matters.

“We could not talk about the economic charges or other stuff, mainly about the family and health,” she said. “We were careful, we knew that the deal could be broken at any moment, so we were careful.”

The visit came as a relief for other members of his family, including Mr Ai’s elderly mother. “The rumours that we’ve heard about him being tortured have been too much for us to take, but now seeing is believing,” said Gao Ying.

Fears for Ai’s physical safety had mounted in recent weeks after online reports that he had been coerced into confessing after watching a video of another disappeared dissident, the human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng being tortured with an electric shock baton.

China has faced mounting international criticism over its detention of Ai Weiwei, who was taken last month during a widespread Chinese clampdown on lawyers, bloggers and artists apparently provoked by the fears that Middle East street revolutions could spread to China.

The novelist Salman Rushdie and the sculptor Anish Kapoor have headed calls from the international artistic community to free Ai Weiwei and urging governments to be more vocal in condemning his arrest.

China has responded by angrily rejected US and European fears that it is “backsliding” on human rights, describing such criticisms as “condescending” and warning strongly against any interference in its judicial sovereignty.

Ai, 53, is officially being investigated for “economic crimes” however his friends, family and colleagues all believe that his detention is because of his outspoken criticism of China’s ruling Communist Party and the failings of the one-party state.

His mother told The Telegraph that Lu Qing had reassured Ai – who was dressed in his own clothes, not a detention centre uniform – that his family were all strong and well, and that tears had welled up in his eyes as he heard that good news.

Although the circumstances of the meeting has revealed nothing of Ai’s exact whereabouts, it might have clarified the legal basis on which he is being held, lawyers said.

Ai’s family members confirmed to The Telegraph on Monday that they still haven’t been given any formal indication of the charges he is facing, which according to Chinese criminal law, they should have received no later than 37 days after his detention.

Liu Xiaoyuan, a lawyer and friend of Ai, says the visit now suggests that Ai is being held under a separate section of Chinese law which would allow the authorities to detain him living under house surveillance (house arrest) for six months.

Although highly unusual, Mr Liu said, it would not be unprecedented for a suspect to be detained under house arrest but outside his own home, even though in normal circumstances suspects under house arrest are allowed telephone contact with the outside world.

While relieved to be granted a visit, Ai’s family say they still want his case to be resolved quickly and in the open.

“Now that we’ve seen that his health is okay, of course we are a bit less anxious, but that’s not to say we want him to stay where he is,” Ai’s mother added to the Associated Press, “We really want this case to be dealt with as soon as possible and for the government to follow proper procedures in keeping with Chinese law.”

Ai Weiwei allowed to see family – Telegraph.

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Tate Modern carpeted with over 100 million ceramic ‘sunflower seeds’

A vast floor within the Tate Modern has been carpeted with more than 100million ‘sunflower seeds’ – the latest commission in the annual Unilever Series.

Visitors will be able to walk on and touch the seeds – the brainchild of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei – which are in fact made of porcelain.

Each imitation seed husk was individually handcrafted by skilled artisans and now covers 1,000 square metres of the London gallery’s Turbine Hall

The ceramic seeds were moulded, fired at soaring temperatures, hand-painted and then fired again over the course of two years.
Sunflower seeds are a popular Chinese street snack but also hold another meaning for the artist, a political dissident in China.
During the Cultural Revolution, propaganda images showed Chairman Mao as the sun and the mass of people as sunflowers turning towards him.
The Unilever Series was launched in 2000 and has included Doris Salcedo’s split of the floor of Tate Modern, Carsten Holler’s spiralling slides and Olafur Eliasson’s popular Weather Project.
Porcelain is almost synonymous with China and, to make his installation, Ai Weiwei has manipulated traditional methods of crafting what has historically been one of China’s most prized exports.
The project is designed to make visitors explore the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon and consider the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today, say curators of the exhibition.

Symbolic: Chinese artist Ai Weiwei with his work Sunflower Seeds – a reference to his country’s Cultural Revolution, when propaganda images showed Chairman Mao as the sun and the mass of people as sunflowers turning towards him
Ai Weiwei is one of China’s leading conceptual artists and an outspoken cultural and social commentator.

Chief curator Sheena Wagstaff said of the new work: ‘It’s a beautifully simple idea that belies an extraordinary rich layer of meanings and references.

Curator Juliet Bingham added: ‘To touch one seed is to touch the whole. It’s a poignant commentary on the relationships between individuals and the masses.’
More than 150 tonnes of seeds have been used for the 10cm (4in) deep, “extremely costly” installation produced by 1,600 people in China.

The seeds were made over a process of 20 to 30 steps in the city of Jingdezhen, which is renowned for its production of imperial porcelain.

Counting fun: Molly Scott, aged one, gets to grips with Ai Weiwei’s new exhibit

The 53-year-old artist, who has been under state surveillance, said of the political repercussions of his latest work: ‘As a gesture it really encourages a lot of young people to express themselves more freely. As a nation, China has to (do that).’

Today’s unveiling prompted speculation that visitors might be tempted to take home a seed or two.
The artist admitted that he could understand the temptation, but added: ‘For the museum’s part the argument is very clear. This is a total work and we want people to see the full effect of 100 million seeds.’

He joked: ‘People might also like to eat them, that’s a safety issue. They might try to sue the Tate for that.’

Taking it all in: A woman in a mac stretches out over Ai Weiwei’s porcelain sunflower seeds. Each one was molded, fired at 1300 degrees centigrade, hand painted and then fired again at 800 degrees

At the end of the show all the seeds will be returned to the artist’s studio in Beijing, as long as they have not broken under the weight of visitors’ feet.
Asked what he would do with the seeds afterwards, he joked: ‘I’ll try to cook with them. Maybe some new product will come out.’

The artist’s previous creations include a series of photographs in which he flicks his middle finger up at the White House, Tiananmen Square and the Eiffel Tower.
He painted the Coca-Cola logo on a 5,000-year-old Neolithic vase and also took a photograph of himself dropping a Han Dynasty urn.

Hours of fun: Molly Scott and and Malia Billing Smith, right, play among the seeds

In Fairytale, he transported 1,000 Chinese people to Germany dressed in uniforms with matching luggage to live in a specially designed house.
Since 2008, his art has focused on the Sichuan earthquake, in which around 90,000 people, many of them children, died or disappeared.
With the help of volunteers, he uncovered the names of almost 6,000 children, which the Government had not released, and posted them on his blog.
He also created a work out of children’s rucksacks, after seeing hundreds discarded in the debris of the collapsed schools.

Surrounded: A young girl sits among the latest commission of The Unilever Series in the Turbine Hall – more than 100m sunflower seeds

Dubbed the Chinese Warhol, the artist collaborated on the design for the Bird’s Nest Stadium for the Beijing Olympics but later boycotted the opening ceremony after saying the games were simply a show of military muscle.

Weiwei, who grew up on the edge of the Gobi Desert, where his late father, Ai Qing, a poet, was exiled during the Cultural Revolution, set up a blog in 2005 but it was shut down by the authorities and he now uses Twitter.

Sunflower Seeds, the 11th Turbine Hall commission, opens tomorrow and runs to May 2, 2011

via Tate Modern carpeted with millions of ‘sunflower seeds’ in the name of art | Mail Online.

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