Ai Weiwei (quadrille)



Ai Weiwei (quadrille)

I first came across Ai Wewei
in a gallery on the banks of the Guadalquivir
that river that runs through Seville
and although I admit
he has many arrows
in his artistic quiver
for me, his art fails to deliver
that shiver, that thrill.


The challenge over at dVerse is to write a quadrille (44 word poem) using the word “quiver”.

After getting a few comments on this post, I decided to add in a bit more detail, it’s hard to provide a balanced viewpoint with just 44 words .


I first became aware of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in Seville of all places. I was walking north along the east bank of the Guadalquiver on my last day in that beautiful exciting sunny city. This section of the east bank does not have much to offer – unless you like graffiti covered vacant lots. I came across a roller blade/skate boarder park where there was a competition going on – elaborate flips, balancing tricks, spectacular wipe-outs, lots of black, lots of tattoos, some magenta hair, Spanish rap music. Looking across to the west bank of the river I saw a brick chimney and what appeared to be a series of bottle-shaped kilns. I crossed the river at the next bridge and using the chimney as a guide I found myself in a museum of contemporary art, the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (CAAC).
The museum is housed in a building with quite a history. It started out as monastery, was used as a barracks in the Napolean invasion, then became the site of ceramics factory (hence, the kilns) and finally in 1997 became the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (CAAC). In the grounds of the museum are various chapels, the priory cell, church, the sacristy, cloisters, monks’ chapter, refectory, gardens and orchards.
Inside the museum, there was an exhibition of the works of the Chinese artist and dissident, Ai Weiwei. The focal point of the exhibition was Ai Weiwei’s “Sunflower Seeds” project which was first shown at the Tate Modern in London where he covered the floor of the Turbine Hall with a layer of hand-crafted porcelain sunflower seeds, a total of 100,000,000 seeds, with a combined weight of 150 tons.
It took more than 1,600 Chinese artisans two and a half years to manufacture this pile of ceramic seeds; each seed is hand-painted and unique, a huge and costly undertaking.
The Seville installation was a smaller version of the Tate installation, consisting of 5 tons of seeds spread like a carpet on the floor of a white-walled room. Outside the room, a video played providing information on the project and showing the artisans working on the production of the seeds. It also showed footage of the original Tate exhibition.
I have to admit that while I could appreciate the sheer effort that went into this piece, and having listened to the video explaining its significance and read further how one of the artist’s intentions is to draw attention to Chinese mass production practices, practices that serve western consumerism at the expense of the individual, as a work of art, it left me completely cold, visually bored. The English poet, Rosemary Tonks, said “The main duty of the poet is to excite – to send the senses reeling” and the same could be said of art in general. Ai Weiwei is a sincere and brave person and there were other Ai Weiwel works on show which better highlighted his talent as an artist, it’s just that this piece, despite the gargantuan effort that went into its production had no visceral impact on me whatsoever.
That is not to take away from the fact that my unplanned visit to Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (CAAC) was one of the highlights of my visit to Seville. Though modest in size, the grounds, history and the placement of contemporary art in the white walled hush of a Carthusian monastery is an experience that should not be missed.



13 thoughts on “Ai Weiwei (quadrille)

    1. sdtp33 Post author

      Looks like a very striking sculpture, Jade. I have updated my post to give a bit more background, so take a look if you get a chance. Enjoying your music posts by the way, I’m always looking for new (and old) music to listen to…JIM

      Liked by 1 person

      1. memadtwo

        Thanks for the background. Not every work by every artist has an impact for sure. And I also tend not to respond to concept art, which this seems to have been. But that sounds like a wonderful place to see art.


  1. msjadeli

    Jim I so much appreciate your telling of the visit, and I saw the sunflower seed exhibit on a doc. What surprises me is the commentary they gave with it, that the “artist’s intentions is to draw attention to Chinese mass production practices, practices that serve western consumerism at the expense of the individual”. When I heard each one was hand-painted and unique my mind went to the hand of God, where each one of us is a seed, each unique, and each holding a place in this world. The exhibit in GR had a bunch of crabs all congregating in a pen, which was visually striking and made me more amazed at the physical creation of them than a connection with the art. There was a giant room that had “gaudy” wallpaper on it with giant pictures of him holding ancient vases, then letting one go as it shattered. I didn’t “get” it until later I read that the symbols on the wallpaper were bright metal surveillance cameras. There was a hall of photos of flower arrangements, each one unique. I thought they were pretty. Later I found out that each unique arrangement stood for one day of his captivity by authorities. Each person determines what is art to them, and feeling/connection to a particular piece can’t be faked. I do see Ai WeiWei’s art as different than the usual as it needs a contextual component many times to make sense. It’s like looking at the tip of an iceberg and thinking, what’s the big deal. Again, thanks for the elaboration, as it seems your quadrille was the tip of the iceberg here 😉



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