February 05, 2013

Ai Weiwei: According to What?

Hirshhorn Museum's survey of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei exhibits his broad artistic practice. Ai Weiwei recently became more recognized around the world because of his provocative work that challenges the political establishment in China. He was arrested and detained by the Chinese government which fueled the artist to use the internet and social media as an active platform for commentary and art. His art focuses on the relationship between Eastern and Western culture and society.

His early work employs traditional furniture, ancient pottery, and daily objects in ways that question cultural values.

Below, an antique pot from the Ming dynasty is emblazoned with a corporate logo which comments on the commercialization of traditional culture.

The two photographs below, with the ironic titles "Study of Perspective: Tiannamen", and "White House", respectively, question and criticize political authority.  

He has been under surveillance by Chinese authorities and not allowed to leave the country. Below, a surveillance camera in marble is presented as an art piece, as evidence of his plight and as a comment on the broader impact of the government on personal freedoms.

A line of backpacks snakes around the gallery's ceiling as part of his ongoing investigation into the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In the earthquake, a school collapsed killing hundreds of children. The Chinese government tried to cover up the impact of the earthquake to detract attention from the shoddy construction of the public school.

Cube Light, a chandelier suspended from the ceiling, is Ai Weiwei's interpretation of Sergei Eisenstein’s 1928 film October, in which a chandelier was shaking during the storming of the Winter Palace, representing the instability of a government on the brink of collapse, continuing his criticism of political authority.
An immersive photographic installation documents the construction of the Bird Nest, the main stadium of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Ai Weiwei collaborated on the design of the stadium with architects Herzog & de Meuron.

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