Thursday

Spectacle


Our human world surely has a taste for spectacle.  And this era, this time seems an absolute match for anything  the ancient Romans had on offer in their coliseums.  Bring in the Christians, let the lions roar!  Not that the natural world is lacking in the same.  The Grand Canyon. Hurricanes.  Tsunamis. The great expanses of desert and mountain. The oceans' daily roar.  And that's only this particular planet's offerings.  Saturn's rings.  Black holes.  Any star-filled night.  Considering all these wonders I don't suppose it's so very odd that we too would want to fill up our human-created spaces with cathedrals, Beethovens Ninth, a Sydney Opera House and footballs' SuperBowls.

Or 100 million individually sculpted and painted sunflower seeds.   The ones Chinese artist Ai Weiwei filled the floor of London's Tate Modern Turbine Hall with a couple of years ago.   Now I've read that the Tate has purchased 8 million of the 'seeds' for a sum that they choose not to disclose.  Although the ever sly close source has revealed the price is probably close to what Sotheby's auction of a 100 kilogram pile of the seeds fetched recently.  That's about 5.50 a seed.  You do the math.  I simply can't. Not this morning anyway.

Ai Weiwei was detained for several months last year by the Chinese government.  I'm not quite sure what the charges were but the art world was outraged. I didn't like it either but I understood it. Because I kept thinking about the people who made the seeds.  All 100 million of them.  How tedious it must have been.
And I wonder how much they were paid for their backbreaking, eye-blinding labor.  And suddenly I don't really give a damn how much fun the first visitors to the Tate had playing in the field of 100 million hand- sculpted hand-painted  porcelain seeds.

No wonder I'm not invited out anymore.  And I must say that a part of me is glad of it.  At the great cost  (for me) of seeming reactionary I'm just bored and sad with it.  This art world  spectacle. When it carries a certain visual energy there is a good chance we will all be invigorated and that I adore. But when it's a mere copy, an illustration of that energy, a side-show brought center, the hell with it.