Artist Slammed for Throwing Away 1,000 Pure Gold Rice Grains to Highlight Food Waste

Shanghai-based artist Yang Yexin has been getting a lot of criticism for throwing away 1,000 grains of rice made of pure gold as part of a performance artwork to highlight current food waste.

If you’re planning on visiting Shanghai soon, you may want to keep your eyes peeled as you walk through the city streets, as you may stumble on small precious nuggets worth a pretty penny. Local artist Yang Yexin recently released a video of himself throwing 1,000 gold grains in trashcans, in drains, in the grass, and in the Huangpu River, as a way of drawing attention to food waste in modern society. The rice grains  showed in the video were made from 500 grams of gold worth over 200,000 yuan ($31,000), by a jewelry store that made them “in accordance with the actual size of each real rice grain.”

The bizarre performance art took place in Shanghai on October 13, and the video footage released by the artist quickly went viral. However, the message that Yang wanted to convey went right past most of the viewers, who accused him of creating “fake art” and being too ostentatious in his attempt to highlight food waste.

“Why gold? For me it seems like he has made a joke about food waste by showing off ostentatiously,” one person wrote on Weibo.

“It is better to support the areas hit by natural disasters and use the money to buy harvesters for those who lost their crops in floods,” someone else commented.

Despite the massive criticism on social media, Yang Yexin insisted that his decision to throw away the 1,000 pure gold rice grains was justified, as the ludicrousness of it was by design.

“One can hardly take the act of waste seriously until it is enlarged to an extreme level like this,” the artist explained. “Throwing away food is nothing short of discarding gold. Gold is part of the earth’s soil while throwing away cooked rice will pose a threat to our environment.”

“First of all, I think people love gold too much, so when I throw away the gold, everyone freaks out,” Yang added. “But if I were to throw away perfectly good food, hardly anyone would notice.”

Although Yang Yexin’s recent performance was criticized by the general public, the artistic scene in China has rallied to his defense, claiming that many of his critics missed the powerful message Yang tried to convey. Luckily, the artist did his best to explain his reasoning by replying to a comment that accused him of wasting money that could have benefitted children in poor mountainous areas.

“I think this kind of comment is very narrow and biased,” Yang said. “For example, when I donated 500 grams of gold or 200,000 yuan to a charity organization, I only helped the charity organization, and only produced 200,000 yuan of things, and the number of people I helped was limited. But if 500 grams of gold or 200,000 yuan is turned into a public event, how many people will it affect?”


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