Chinese artist dumps 1,000 ‘rice’ grains made of gold to protest food waste, accused of ‘wasting resources’

Yang Yexin says he’s turned a ‘blind eye’ towards the allegations

Sravasti Dasgupta
Tuesday 19 October 2021 11:19
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<p>File: Rice is seen at a local supermarket in Shanghai on 7 April 2008</p>

File: Rice is seen at a local supermarket in Shanghai on 7 April 2008

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A Chinese artist’s attempt to draw attention to food wastage by throwing away pure gold in the shape of 1,000 rice grains has seemingly backfired after people accused him of wastefulness.

Artist Yang Yexin had uploaded a video on social media platform Weibo on Sunday that showed him throwing away the gold-shaped grains into Shanghai’s drains, dustbins, grass and the Huangpu river, in a bid to draw attention to food wastage.

Mr Yang threw the grains away between 15 and 16 October. Every year World Food Day is observed on 16 October by the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Mr Yang said the “rice” grains were made using 500 grams of gold worth over 200,000 yuan (over £22,660). The grains were made by a jeweller to reflect the actual size and shape of real rice.

“Wasting ordinary things cannot arouse people’s interest now. Only extreme wastage can make people see how serious the issue is and then change their mindset and behaviour,” he wrote in the video’s caption, reported South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Mr Yang’s video, which he also described as “sarcasm over food waste,” did not go down well with social media users, according to local media reports.

One social media user on Weibo described the video as “a perfect marketing stunt”.

“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,” said the social media user.

Another user, reacting to the video, said throwing away gold was also a form of wastage.

More than 60 per cent of 27,000 Weibo users reacting to the story till Monday afternoon said they thought the act was wasteful, claimed a poll conducted by Beijing-based journal China Newsweek and cited by SCMP.

Mr Yang pushed back against the allegations. “I have received many attacks but I turn a blind eye on them,” he was quoted as saying by the Global Times.

Other artists also came out in support of Mr Yang and said his message had been misinterpreted.

“People have the wrong impression that gold is more precious than rice, the thing that supports our life. Many years ago when gold was not traded, rice was more precious,” Li, an artist from Beijing, told the Global Times.

“Yang’s video simply reflects a social phenomenon and calls for people’s attention to it. This is valuable as it has made the public aware of the food waste problem,” Tang Xiao, a contemporary sculpture artist based in Chengdu, in southwest China’s Sichuan province, told the outlet.

Mr Yang runs an advertising firm and has won awards at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, according to his Weibo profile cited by the outlet.

Around 17 per cent of food produced worldwide, amounting to an estimated 931 million tons of wasted food, was thrown away in 2019, according to the Food Waste Index Report of 2021 by the United Nations Environment Programme.

China has sought to crack down on videos promoting food wastage and also passed a law earlier this year banning binge-eating videos and excessive leftovers.

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