Ai Weiwei’s work evokes a call for freedom in speech and expression, existing as a visual and sociological representation of events and people overlooked or destroyed by culture, politics, mother nature, or an intertwined combination of the three. To have the opportunity to experience, interact, and absorb this message of individualistic value, however, has not been easy for Ai Weiwei who continues to struggle politically within his native country of China and the limits the Chinese government is placing upon him.
A name is the first and final marker of individual rights, one fixed part of the ever-changing human world. A name is the most basic characteristic of our human rights: no matter how poor or how rich, all living people have a name, and it is endowed with good wishes, the expectant blessings of kindness and virtue.
The above quote is printed high on one wall of the AGO beside a massive and overwhelming list of names belonging to every student lost to the 2008 earthquake in China’s Sichuan Province (see photo at right). This earthquake holds great importance to Ai Weiwei’s exhibit, acting as a propeller, inspiring his visual criticisms of the Chinese government and marking his work as outspoken and controversial (and, in my opinion, incredibly significant and compelling).
While Ai Weiwei is currently living under constant surveillance, being banned from travelling outside of China, his works brings his own familial experiences to light while exploring both the individual’s and the artist’s perspective of the more cultural world – trips to monuments in Paris, Washington, and Beijing included.
At the AGO, visitors are lucky to see He Xie, a display of 3200 porcelain crabs that represent a protest of the Chinese government’s control of information. After his studio in Shanghai was destroyed by authorities in 2010, Ai Weiwei called out to his Twitter followers to join his objection against censorship. Consequently, he was banned from attending the planned crab feast by the same authorities who destroyed his studio.
A multi-media display of personal photos, video documentaries, and visual representations of modernization and culture (including his momentous Forever Company bicycle piece), Ai Weiwei: According to What? awakens visitors to a present and evolving problem: how are we to exist within a culture packed and pressed with a tradition and legacy that is tending to suffocate the challenges of new and contemporary ideas, ideals, and values?
Get involved, join the discussion, and immerse yourself in the conversation of exploitation and connection. #aiwwAGO
Article brought to you by Andrea Wrobel