Ai Weiwei: According To What?
It was a privilege to see Ai Weiwei’s exhibition at the AGO this fall. Ai Weiwei is one of China’s most famous, most provocative and most political contemporary artists. His work reflects the vastness and the isolation of China. Once celebrated by the Chinese government he is now a prisoner in his own country because of his advocacy of human rights, especially children’s. Through his art he has made the world aware of these issues. The messages he conveys are clear and immediately apparent in sculptures of the finest craftsmanship and ingenuity.
Much of Ai Weiwei’s criticism of the Chinese Government is a result of the 2008 Sichaun earthquakes that killed 5,200 children when their shoddily built schools collapsed. A photograph from one of these schools showing backpacks among the rubble was the inspiration for Snake Ceiling, 2009. Ordinary backpacks of varying sizes, to represent children of all ages, are formed into a snake and hung from the ceiling as a memorial to the dead children. Another sculpture, Wenchaun Steel Rebar, 2008 – 2012 uses rebar recovered from the collapsed schools. Many craftspeople painstakingly straightened the rebar. The straightened rods are laid out in straight lines with a massive fissure snaking down the middle. This is also a very evocative piece and it’s purpose is to preserve the memory of the horrible tragedy and the needless deaths of the children.
There is a very interesting book published in conjunction with the exhibition available at the AGO store and is, surprisingly, very affordable.