Just squeezing in a last Aussie post:
Can Art change the world? Can it be an effective form of protest? After seeing the Warhol and Ai Weiwei exhibition in the National Gallery of Victoria I would have to say yes! That’s not to say I liked everything I saw, but can understand why China may consider Weiwei their most dangerous man – putting him in jail, shutting down his blog and still making him get official permission to travel. Yet his Art installations and sculptures are on show globally and he continues to be in the news for various protests on human rights and freedom of speech and more recently refugees.
Living in a world exposed to a thousand images each day, it is easy to become desensitized, and the exhibition helped me to slow down and think about his message. Ai’s work is provocative, confronting, stimulating and ‘way out’, yet a refreshing approach to current issues.
It is an absolute mammoth exhibition and with both artists work, it really needs more than one visit. His video on the making of ‘Straight’ would have to be what impacted most. I was mesmerised by the massive preparation of 200 tons of steel rods taken from the schools crushed in the devastating earthquake of 2008 that left 87,000 dead or missing and nearly 5million people homeless. Ai’s workers pounding endlessly on those rods, a symbol of the endless frustration and anger at such poor constructions that collapsed on the heads of innocent children in class. The completed installation ripples across the pavement with an eerie silence.
Ai’s utilization of social media creates images that go viral worldwide – ‘Leg gun’ conceived on the Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, was a protest in defiance of internet censorship and taken up globally.
Antique urns shockingly breathe new life with modern logos of mass consumption or are carelessly doused with paint.
Ancient furniture is reconstructed into ‘new and often confounding arrangements.’
‘Like Marcel Duchamp, he sees art as a playing field with no rules.’
Brash and irreverent are the photos of his wife in Tiananmen square and his giving the finger to various establishment buildings all over the world.
Always controversial, with both his message and materials to portray it.
Lego changed their policy after initially refusing to supply the bulk order of Lego pieces for Ai’s political project. ‘Lego’s decision to stop asking bulk customers what they want to do with the bricks is a “victory for freedom of speech“, said Ai Weiwei
Kids dance amongst Caonima balloons, again a cheeky play on words between a common Chinese profanity/ alpaca/ twitter symbol?!
So much of what Ai does is mega, employing hundreds of expert artisans to produce the most exquisite porcelain flowers, or reproduce the common Forever bicycles.
Flowers in a bicycle basket recall Ai’s 600 days waiting for his passport to be returned, as each day he placed a bouquet in a bicycle in front of his studio.
Recently he decided to suspend his exhibitions in Denmark in protest at the Danish Parliament authorizing the seizure of assets of asylum seekers and migrants and retarding the immigrants family reunification. It is not the only issue that the artist has had with Denmark.
The Melbourne exhibition is impressive and thought provoking, weird and wonderful, and Ai Weiwei will certainly continue to have a major impact, challenging China and the rest of the globe to look at the current issues of our changing world.
I hope I have not spoiled it for any of you still to see the show. I promise there is far more than I have touched on here, so prepare yourselves for a long day!
And if you are in Florence, Ai Weiwei will be at Palazzo Strozzi from the 23 Sept 2016 – 22 Jan 2017