The Tate Modern is home to exquisite contemporary art and a beacon for freedom of expression, and on Monday its Turbine Hall saw Charlotte Eaton strip stark naked. Miss Eaton, 32, a yoga teacher from north-west London, stood naked in Ai Weiwei’s “Sunflower seeds” exhibition in the Tate modern, London, in protest of the Chinese artist and outspoken political critic Ai Weiwei’s detention in China.
With a sunflower, “Freedom”, and “Thank you Ai Weiwei” painted on her body, near the bed of porcelain sunflower seeds Miss Eaton represents the power of one person’s actions, against one hundred million, identical porcelain seeds; a representation of the masses. The protest marked one month of Ai Weiwei’s disappearance to a Chinese detention centre, after attempting to board a flight to Hong Kong. The Chinese Government have commented only that Ai Weiwei is being investigated for economic crimes, his whereabouts is still unknown. The detention has been denounced internationally.
Ai Weiwei’s absence is highlighted as his first public exhibition was unveiled in New York on the third of May; the “Circle of animal/Zodiac heads” is on display at the Pulitzer fountain, at the entrance to Central Park, this is the first time an art exhibition has been held at the famous fountain. Inspired by the fabled fountain-clock of the Yuanming Yua and Ai Weiwei’s love of Chinese history, the heads have been reinvented as massive cast iron spectacles that weight 800lb each. New York is but a stop in the exhibitions tour, but it is most significant to Ai Weiwei who lived in New York for thirteen years, and described it as his home.
As a political critique of the Chinese Government, Ai Weiwei’s art often makes its own political stance. “Sunflower seeds” was a critique of mass consumption, and mass acceptance of governmental regimes, but in “So sorry”, held at Haus der Kunst in Munich Germany, Ai Weiwei made a tribute to saying sorry. Its title refers to the many times all government’s and corporations say sorry to their people for poor decisions, the exhibition made up of children’s back-packs, spelling out “She lived happily for seven years in this world”, a quote from one of the parents who lost their child, pays homage to the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. The exhibition came after Ai Weiwei supported an investigation to find all the children’s names that died, and after he was attacked by the Chinese police for trying to testify for a fellow, who claimed of inadequate building work on the school.
It seems ironic that Ai Weiwei’s “Circle of Animal/Zodiac heads”, an esteem of Chinese history has also become a symbol for Human Rights and Freedom of speech after Ai Weiwei’s arrest. Its existence is now yet another example of how freedom of expression cannot be suppressed, but a reminder that not everyone has it as easily as they should. Ai Weiwei has seen international support for his release from government’s and art institutions; the Tate Modern has joined a collective petition with other leading museums around the world expressing concern for Ai Weiwei’s release. To sign the museums petition please visit www.change.org, and show your support.
“FREEDOM” “THANK YOU AI WEI WEI”