Step 3 of 4
Pearls in a Bowl
Depending on context, the “bowl of pearls” changes its appearance: against the backdrop of a royal residence, it no longer looks precious, but like a bowl filled with rice meant for a ravenous giant. Even in the white cube setting of a museum, “bowl of pearls” thematizes bodies through their absence: the porcelain invokes the bodies of the craftsmen of Jingdezhen while the pearls evoke the absent bodies of myriads of mollusks as well as the pearl cultivators who inserted particles into their bodies to facilitate the process of biomineralization.
In addition, both the bowl and the pearls evoke the body and the presence of someone who put the pearls into the bowl, which in this case is the controversial artist and activist Ai Weiwei.[Cf]