Cow-gate's lessons for my children

Cow-gate's lessons for my children

SINGAPORE - My kids are staring at a map of China made of 1,815 tins of baby milk formula.

"Hey, that's my brand," says my younger son, Lucien, almost four years old, pointing at a cluster of eight orange tins representing Hainan Island.

Spread out on the floor in an art gallery, it is the latest work of art by controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to be exhibited here.

Baby Formula 2013, as the piece is called, is Ai's comment on his country's 2008 food-safety scandal, in which at least six children died and 300,000 toddlers became ill after drinking melamine-tainted milk formula.

On until Oct 6 at the Michael Janssen Gallery in the Gillman Barracks art enclave, the art installation is accompanied by two series of prints which make the political indictment clearer.

"Shameless, can't get any more Shameless," read the yellow text on one print, against a background of milk-powder labels (one label was for "Cow&Gate", a real British brand but also an uncanny echo of Watergate, the political scandal which brought down American president Richard Nixon).

"This is a senseless and faithless society with no conscience, people will gradually understand that this system is the root of all evil," read another.

I decided to take my two sons to the show, Ai's first solo exhibition in South-east Asia, because its subject matter and materials are things that the boys can relate to immediately.

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