“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” wrote Percy Bysshe Shelley in A Defense of Poetry in 1821. A radical, Romantic humanist, Shelley passionately believed that artists of all stripes could inspire the masses to rise up against oppression. When the Chinese government seized artist Ai WeiWei, they acknowledged the power of Ai’s art to “legislate” in a way they seemingly no longer could in the face of the oncoming Jasmine Revolution. The fate of Ai, and that of the Chinese people, now hangs in the balance.” (The Big Think)
– photo of Tate Modern’s fab “Release Ai Weiwei” message (by @robbiesharp) ;
– most of what we do and think and feel is not under our conscious control according to neuroscientists (The Telegraph) ;
– but this picture provides a clue on how to be happy (The Big Picture) ;
– for this six-year old it was becoming Director of Fun at a railway museum (Letter of Note) ;
– for the rest of us it is friends and exercise :
All three researchers concluded that one of the biggest factors in both a happy life and a long life was having strong and healthy social connections. (The Atlantic)
So work out this weekend and then catch up with your friends.
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The Unilever Series: Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds 2010 at Tate Modern
I recently caught Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern in London:
Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. Far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space, the 100 million seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape.
Porcelain is almost synonymous with China and, to make this work, Ai Weiwei has manipulated traditional methods of crafting what has historically been one of China’s most prized exports. Sunflower Seeds invites us to look more closely at the ‘Made in China’ phenomenon and the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today.
So it is heartbreaking to learn that Shanghai authorities have demolished his studio which he had the strength to describe as an ultimate work of art.
British journalist Jon Snow met Ai last October and the artist handed him some sunflower seeds from the exhibition. Snow has kept them in his jacket pocket ever since.
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On the day that Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, John Simpson, world affairs editor at BBC News, has written a wonderfully appropriate piece on how individuals can change the world:
“At a single day’s trial last December, Mr Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison after having helped to draft Charter 08, a manifesto for political change in China.
The act of official irritability which took away Mr Liu’s freedom is becoming more and more of an international embarrassment to China.
Now, in every country in the world, his name and cause will be known; and more people in dictatorships everywhere will be emboldened to imitate his small act of resistance.”
He also points to a book that is published today – Small Acts of Resistance: How Courage, Tenacity, and Ingenuity Can Change the World – which details how governments which deny their people freedom have been brought down by individuals determined to speak and act as though they are free.
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