Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Seeds of Dissent: Poem for Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, 2010
© Ai Weiwei
Photocredit: Tate Photography

Seeds of Dissent 
Poem for Ai Weiwei 

Ai Weiwei,
your sunflower seeds
massed, ripened,
ruptured pods,
showering our words for yours,
your voice gone missing.


You behind
their firewall, silenced
bits and bytes,
don't forget
your father, his tongue too charged
with a poet's crime.

He, seeing,
learned how artists' hands
turning dirt,
splitting rock,
break scribbling odes to a child
wishing him at home.


You shared seeds,
turned your face to wind,
in China,
made of painted porcelain
new unquiet tongues.


sunflowers wither.
Lu Qing waits,
jasmine branch
stripped bare. Set an example,
Ai said, and he did.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas


". . . 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." ~ Ai Weiwei

Lu Qing is Ai Weiwei's wife.

Ai Weiwei's father, Ai Qing (1910-1996) was a poet who was imprisoned for six years and, while exiled for 20, was forced to clean public toilets.

To learn more about Ai Weiwei's installation Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern until May 2, go here. Take time to view this excellent video with Ai Weiwei, who demonstrates how the installation was made and what it means (you may also view the video here). The sunflower is deeply symbolic in China.

My earlier post about Ai Weiwei is here.

See Ben Davis, "Ai Weiwei Faces Strange New Accusations in China as Supporters Rally in Hong Kong: The Latest Developments", ArtInfo, April 11, 2011.

Ai Weiwei is one of three artists who created site-specific installations for an exhibition, "The Divine Comedy", at Harvard. His installation ("Untitled", 2011) is a memorial to the schoolchildren who died in the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan; it consists of 5,335 school backpacks, each identical, each representing a child's life lost (unnecessarily, because school buildings were so poorly constructed, the result of graft and corruption), and a continuously looping sound piece, "Remembrance", in which each child's name is said aloud. A related project, "My Time Is Your Surroundings", organized by metaLAB (at) Harvard, calls for Twitter responses to the artist's work or continued detention. Every response using the hastag #mtys is projected live next to Ai Weiwei's installation, which is on view until May 17, 2011. Go here for more information about participating in @aiww One-to-Many with Ai Weiwei. 

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I offer this series, in the Shadorma form (six lines in 3-5-3-3-7-5 syllables, respectively), for  this week's One Shot Wednesday event at One Stop Poetry, which each week invites poets to share, read, and comment on each other's work. Be sure to visit the site late Tuesday afternoon and every Wednesday for links to the many contributors' poems.


Glynn said...

There was a time when China honored its poets and artists. Now it imprisons them. Your poem captures the tragedy.

Louise Gallagher said...

It does capture the tragedy. And thank you for the links and the video.

My heart is heavy.
the silence is deafening.

S. Etole said...

what a testimony his life is ...

Sara said...

I love these little packages of dissent and mourning.

Very cool that you and I both put our sunflower seeds out today. :)

Maureen said...


You have a very interesting blog. Thank you for stopping in.

Susan, I agree. His conceptual piece for the schoolchildren lost in the earthquake in 2008 is quite moving.

Glynn and Louise, thank you for your kind words. The more I learn about Ai's work, the more fascinated I am. I hope he is freed soon but his situation does not look good.

Joyce Wycoff said...

Beautiful tribute. I loved the sunflower video ...since I won't be able to see it in person, this was a real gift.

Anonymous said...

Good research on this piece and a beautiful dedication...

Unknown said...

Maureen thanks. Ai makes such a statement and a stand. How many people are willing to suffer through it and stand firm - well I know
One !!


Unknown said...

truly amazing tribute.. really enjoyed it

Brian Miller said...

may the voices never be silenced regardless...

Jannie Funster said...

Uh oh, a poet's crime. I guess I've been found out. :)

Love the bits and bytes and firewall part best.

Oh, and Ai Weiwei words for us to be the examples.

hedgewitch said...

I was by earlier, but found it hard to comment--I get so angry when I think about this man and his gift, and the thuggery that forces him to live as a martyr instead of an artist. Your piece is graceful, yet draws a calligraphic line in the sand that makes it plain where we all should stand. Thanks Maureen, for continuing to write and inform about this subject.

Timoteo said...

They're all made out of porcelain...oh man, just shows us how we often look without really seeing.

Ami Mattison said...

Oh, wow! Just an amazing poem! Setting an example of how to write portraits of dissent with empathy and still manage to witness for justice. Excellent!

Anonymous said...

what a treasure..work calls, but I shall look forward to a re-read of your beautifully crafted piece, as well as the wonderful information regarding Weiwei...thank you so much for a wonderful site ~ angela

robkistner said...

Was not familiar with the person, but was moved by this piece you wrote Maureen, and saddened by the injustice...

rob kistner

Vinay Leo R. said...

a wonderful tribute to him :) I enjoyed it, Maureen. Even I've set on Shadorma form this week. I found it very interesting to work with!

My Post Is Here

signed...bkm said...

made of painted porcelain
new unquiet tongues.

Maureen all the lines are such a beautiful tribute to this man...his words so powerful to hold him as a hostage by a nation...you speaks so well of the power that words produce...and the difference they can make...bkm

Claudia said...

wow maureen - this was awesome - thanks so much and also for providing all the background information - much appreciated

Unknown said...

A brilliant dedication to a brave and honest artist-voice. Thank you for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Lovely tribute. I too felt moved to write about Wei Wei a few weeks ago.

Alegria Imperial said...

Such meaningful tribute to an artist can only come from another who knows the soul of one. Masterfully crafted, evenly spare yet full with what's not written. Thank you!

Cain and Todd Benson said...

Nice poem. Very. My Thoughts. “Ai Weiwei-Freedom”. Art, image.


Debbie said...

Amazing, the poem about Weiwei and the Sunflower installation! Took my breath away.