This past weekend Dave and I celebrated our one year anniversary by going to London (ironic considering that we both - Dave especially - aren't too fond of spending our time in congested cities, particularly those heaving with tourists and are desperately full of chain restaurants and cheezy trinkets specifically designed to sell to the masses). Upon arriving we stopped at the Carpenter's Arms pub near Marble Arch, which a friend of ours, Phil - former Camp Walden colleague - runs.
Me & Flat Anna by Big Ben and Parliament
We ended up staying until closing which made us a bit lethargic for the next day of bimbling about. We spent several hours in the Tate Modern, walked around the South Bank (being sure to get a pic of Flat Anna in front of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament) before stopping off at a pub for a bit of drink, chips and sit-down; then we headed to Portobello Market, which never disappoints, where we shared an impromptu slow dance at a quiet intersection while we listening to the crooning of the lovely Billie Holiday. We headed back to the hotel for a power nap and then headed out for dinner at El Pirata, a tapas restaurant in Mayfair (highly recommend this place!!! The street outside was quiet but inside it was warm and full of buzz - the atmosphere was alive, the service swift and ever-present without being noticed somehow, and the food absolutely incredible!
Sunflower Seeds 2010, by Ai Weiwei
During dinner we reflected on our last year of marriage (which I will refrain from sharing because we choose to share this as our own personal memory) and then got onto the topic of art. I have to say in all of the time I've known Dave, this might have been the first time we dedicated a full conversation to the subject. When we'd visited the Tate earlier in the day, we saw a work - Sunflower Seeds 2010 - by the Chinese artist Ai Weiei. Dave had a difficult time with this piece - he thought it was pointless. Why would anyone bother to make millions of tiny little hand-decorated sunflower seeds out of porcelain and then throw them into a huge pile on the floor? What a waste of time, he said. Why not spend that energy making something more useful? "Like what?" I said - "another shirt that you can buy on the street for $2?" This made him think for a bit. I went on to say, "this piece is about more than a bunch of sunflower seeds - it's about creating a conversation; imagine all of the people in the museum today who'd never heard of Ai Weiwei and who may be unaware that he was imprisoned for expressing his thoughts and who will leave that museum, hopefully, with a better understanding of his oppressive culture. In this case, it's not just about making something that you'd put on display in your house (although I'd love to have the house to accomodate such an installation), it's about starting a dialogue and making you think." He still wasn't so sure - he argued a person could make the same point without wasting those materials. I agree in some ways. But I also think that merely writing a thought on paper or speaking out on televsion is easy to forget; whereas an installation of this sort is more impactful - it interferes with your space (or you with it) and has a visual impact that's digested in a completely different way...in a far more memorable way. And that, in a nutshell, is what's great about art. We all have our own opinions about what makes good or bad art; what you like I may hate and vice versa - but it at least gets you thinking. It starts a dialogue and sometimes, makes you reconsider things. Some artists create things because they feel a need to express some inner emotion; others create as a way of expressing what goes on outside of them. Both are valid. And I would argue necessary. If nothing else, it can expand our awareness of something we before knew little about. And that's magic.
For some insight into Ai Weiwei and the Sunflower Seeds project, take a look at this video:
Erin Singleton is an artist currently living in the bucolic seaside town of Marblehead, Mass. She loves to explore her creativity in her studio and in the kitchen. She also loves to read, watch movies, spend time with friends and enjoy the great outdoors with her husband, Dave, and their daughter, Maisie.
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