Address unknown: Ai Wei Wei, dissent and rebellion. By: Pedro Livni + Gonzalo Carrasco Purull
On 3 April, the art world learned of the arrest by Chinese police of the artist Ai Weiwei, who was unknown until now, his whereabouts. Ai Weiwei was arrested when boarding a flight to Hong Kong, while eight colleagues from the study of Ai Weiwei in Beijing were also arrested, remained in detention so far.
Son of Ai Qing, one of the most important poets of the second half of the twentieth century in China, Ai Weiwei has become one of the most important visual artists, so much of contemporary China, such as the international scene. In the West was known mainly for having collaborated with the architects Herzog & de Meuron at the famous stadium “Bird’s Nest” for the Beijing Olympics. Not going to the opening of the games as a way of protest against the use by the Chinese regime – widely regarded as profoundly undemocratic Ai Weiwei – the “Bird’s Nest” as a propaganda icon.
Invited to exhibit at the New Tate in London, Ai Weiwei covered 1,000 square meters of floor hall with over a hundred million porcelain sunflower seeds. Each one of which was individually hand painted by 1,600 artisans in the city of Jingdezhen. Work that is put into question the presence of the individual over the amount, in relation to current production systems. Emphasis on skilled manual work – the artisan – recalling the tradition of China porcelain, deeper aspects of a culture now in the midst of a rapid and accelerating change in large part exacerbated by industrialization in the country since three decades.
Possessing a long history, many of his most emblematic have been framed within the tradition of the ready-made, many of which operate as objects of strong resistance and criticism against the political-cultural reality of modern China. A reality that has recently been infected by the massive wave of riots that have occurred in North Africa in an attempt to overthrow authoritarian regimes that rule these countries.
The crumbling: areas of dissent, freedom scenarios.
Ai Weiwei has made the resistance, the territory from where he makes his work. Returning to the art and its active role in society, an aspect often overlooked in the contemporary scene. The discomfort, unease and dissent are like the ways in which the art of Ai Weiwei has sought to construct scenarios of freedom.
I remember in my visit to the Documenta XII, 2007, that the work of Ai lay crumbling. The artist refused to rebuild after its collapse, leaving it just a bunch of crooked timber in one of the gardens of the exhibition. Previously – the same year in Paris – at the inauguration of the monument dedicated to the solo exhibition of Anselm Kiefer, one of the towers also collapsed concrete panels when assembling. Kiefer as Ai Weiwei’s work exhibited left in ruins. Moreover, Ai Weiwei’s friends in China have risen the last few hours to the network, photographs showing the study’s own Ai Weiwei become a pile of rubble, demolished by the authorities in Shanghai.
Both works collapsed may realize a past broken and difficult to repair. A fractured mind, where at most the artist will be able to build scenarios of freedom precarious and fragile. VKPK.