786 E. 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90013
This mural by Damon Martin is a portrait of the Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei. The porcelain sunflower seeds he holds are an allusion to his work ‘Sunflower Seeds’ at Tate Modern that is made up of millions of handcrafted porcelain seeds. It is a statement regarding globalization and mass production in China. Thousands of cheap laborers, assembly lines in gigantic factories and tedious procedures at the bottom of the production chain cater to Western consumerism.
The sunflower seed is also a common street snack in China. It evokes the memory of hardship and hunger during the Cultural Revolution and the era of socialist planned economy under the worship of Chairman Mao Zedong. While individuals were stripped of personal freedom, propaganda images depicted Zedong as “the sun” and the mass of people as sunflowers turning towards him. Yet Ai Weiwei remembers the sharing of sunflower seeds as a gesture of kindness and compassion- a symbol for humanity in an inhuman era.