Ai Weiwei's milk powder-inspired map of China

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Ai Weiwei's milk powder-inspired map of China

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A map of China, unlike any other. One of the most recent works from Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei on display in Hong Kong uses 1,800 large tins of infant formula, arranged to form a 80 metre square map of the country.

The work is a response to China’s 2008 baby milk scandal, when Chinese-made milk was contaminated by the industrial chemical melamine, killing at least six infants and poisoning 300,000 others.

The controversial artist, who has often fallen foul of the authorities in China, said: “Most enterprises like these, which manufacture products with bad food safety are all state owned, and they monopolise the management of society’s food, and also profit the most. When national enterprises like these have such a big problem under the country’s own management, regulations and supervision, it’s the country’s officials who should bear the greatest responsibility.”

According to the show’s curators in Hong Kong, Weiwei’s new artwork is more complex than it initially appears.

Cosmin Costinas spoke about its multi-layered meaning: “This can also be read as an exploration of the landscape of fear in Hong Kong – a fear of the others, a fear of the mainland Chinese coming and invading and grabbing something from Hong Kong.”

Panic buying of milk powder by mainland Chinese mums increased tensions in Hong Kong and led authorities in the former British colony to enact a two-tin limit on exports for fear of supplies running out for locals.

Last year, over 30 million mainland Chinese visited the tiny territory, almost four times the city’s population.

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