Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Ai Weiwei in the Elevator When Taken into Custody by the Police, 2009. Inkjet print, 140 x 105 cm. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Accusers (detail), 2011-2013. From the work S.A.C.R.E.D., 2011-13. One of six dioramas in fiberglass and iron, 377 x 198 x 153 cm. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957).Ye Haiyan's Belongings at 6:35 a.m. on July 6, 2013, 2013. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Forever Bicycles, 2013. 3144 bicycles. Installation at Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2013, Nathan Philips Square, Toronto, Canada. © Ai Weiwei. Photo by John Heineman.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Moon Chest, 2008. Seven chests in Huanghuali wood, each: 320 x 160 x 80 cm. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Kippe, 2006. Tieli wood (iron wood) from dismantled temples of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and iron parallel bars, 182 x 286 x 104 cm. Collection of Honus Tandijono. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Making of Colored Vases. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei, 2012. Photo by Gao Yuan.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Snake Ceiling, 2009. Back packs, 40 x 900 cm. Collection of Larry Warsh. Installation view of Ai Weiwei: According to What? at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., 2012. Photo by Cathy Carver.

Ai Weiwei, Colored Vases, 2007-10. Han Dynasty vases and industrial paint, dimensions variable. Photo by Cathy Carver.

Ai Weiwei Mystifies and Astounds in First North American Survey

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Cover of So Sorry, 2011. Documentary, 54 minutes. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Table with Two Legs on the Wall, 2008. Collection of Larry Warsh. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Straight, 2008-12. Steel reinforcing bar, dimensions variable. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. Installation at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., 2012. Photo by Cathy Carver.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). First panel of the triptych Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Second panel of the triptych Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Third panel of the triptych Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. © Ai Weiwei.

 

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
718-828-5000
New York
Ai Weiwei: According to What?
April 18-August 10, 2014

Ai Weiwei: According to What? — the first North American survey of the work of the provocative Chinese conceptual artist, sculptor, photographer, filmmaker, and activist — will be presented at the Brooklyn Museum from April 18 to August 10, 2014. This will be the first large-scale museum exhibition of Ai’s work in New York and the final presentation on the exhibition’s tour. The Brooklyn Museum will include several major works not seen in previous venues.

Included among the new material is S.A.C.R.E.D., making its first appearance in North America since it debuted to critical acclaim during the Venice Biennale in 2013. Ai created this monumental work in response to his 81-day imprisonment by Chinese authorities in 2011. Each of the six iron boxes that make up the piece contains lifelike fiberglass dioramas of detailed scenes painstakingly reproduced from memory. The work documents and reveals the most painful and intimate moments of Ai’s imprisonment, from periods of interrogation to such daily activities as eating, sleeping, showering, and using the toilet.

The Brooklyn presentation will also feature a stunning site-specific installation of bicycles. This installation is part of a series of works by Ai using bicycles that is related to his childhood experience and to the bicycle’s relevance to the lives of most Chinese people.

Also making its debut is an installation of photographs and the personal belongings of Ye Haiyan, a women’s rights activist who has been systematically targeted by authorities for her advocacy on behalf offemale Chinese sex workers and evicted from her home numerous times. The exhibition will also premiere Stay Home! — Ai’s documentary about Liu Ximei, who contracted AIDS as a child after being given an HIV-contaminated blood transfusion at a Chinese hospital.

The work of Ai Weiwei examines the interrelations between art, society, and individual experience while exploring universal topics such as culture, history, politics, and tradition. His practice is interdisciplinary and transcends artistic genres, providing insights into the cultural, historical, and social contexts from which it emerged. Many of Ai’s creations address issues of cultural identity, tradition, and craftsmanship, while others engage with more overtly political and social issues. According to What? will feature several largescale installations, sculpture, photography, and video.

Also included in the exhibition will be several works created as a direct response to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Straight (2008-12) consists of tons of twisted steel rebar — meticulously straightened as if nothing had happened—taken from shoddily constructed buildings, particularly schools, that collapsed during the quake. Snake Ceiling (2009), an installation comprised of hundreds of backpacks in varying sizes and colors to represent children of various ages, refers to the more than five thousand students who perished.

Examples from the artist’s repurposed furniture series, in which he reassembles pieces of antique
furniture to eliminate the furniture’s original function and give it new meaning, are representative of Ai’s strong interest in structure and craftsmanship. Among these is China Log (2005), which uses wood from demolished temples of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). This sculpture was assembled using traditional Chinese joinery techniques. When viewed in cross section, it reveals the shape of a map of China.

The exhibition also features Ai’s famous Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995-2009), a series of three photographs showing the artist dropping and smashing an antique vase, as well as Colored Vases (2007-10), a grouping of Han Dynasty (206 b.c.e. -220 c.e. ) vases that Ai has dipped in brightly colored paints.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. Beijing, 1957) is known for such major projects as Fairytale, for which he brought 1,001 Chinese citizens to Kassel, Germany, for Documenta 12 in 2007; his collaboration with architects Herzog and de Meuron on the Beijing National Stadium design for the 2008 Olympic Games; and his installation of one hundred million hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2010. His political activism has gained worldwide attention through his use of the Internet and social media as active platforms for his commentary and as art forms in their own right.

Ai Weiwei was a member of China’s first group of avant-garde artists. He moved to the United States in 1981, living in various parts of the country before moving in 1983 to New York, where he resided for a brief time in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He returned to Beijing in 1993. While in New York, he was influenced by the artists Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and Jasper Johns. The exhibition’s subtitle, According to What? , is derived from the name of a 1964 Johns painting that in turn recalls Duchamp’s last painting.

The exhibition is installed in 13,000 square feet of gallery space, including the fourth- and fifth-floor special exhibitions galleries in the Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, and the brick arcade that separates the Lobby from the Rubin Pavilion on the first floor.

Ai Weiwei: According to What? is organized by the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo. It is curated by Mami Kataoka, Mori Art Museum Chief Curator, and the Brooklyn presentation is organized by Sharon Matt Atkins, Managing Curator of Exhibitions.

The Brooklyn presentation has been made possible by Mary Boone Galleries. Additional support is provided by the American Chai Trust for education and public programs.

A full-color catalogue accompanies the exhibition. Co-published by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Mori Museum, and Prestel, it includes essays by Mami Kataoka and art historian Charles Merewether, and a recent interview with the artist conducted by e-mail by Kerry Brougher, Chief Curator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). S.A.C.R.E.D, a six-part work composed of (i) S upper, (ii) A ccusers, (iii) Cleansing, (iv) R itual, (v) E ntropy, (iv) D oubt, 2011-13. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Forever Bicycles (detail), 2013. 3144 bicycles. Installation at Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2013, Nathan Philips Square, Toronto, Canada. © Ai Weiwei. Photo by John Heineman.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). R itual (detail), 2011-2013. From the work S.A.C.R.E.D., 2011-13. One of six dioramas in fiberglass and iron, 377 x 198 x 153 cm. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). New York Photographs, 1983-93, Ai Weiwei, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 1983. Ninety-eight framed black-and-white photographs, each: (84 x 84 cm). Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Straight, 2008-12. Steel reinforcing bars, dimensions variable. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). He Xie, 2010. 3200 porcelain crabs, dimensions variable. Installation at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., 2012. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. Photo by Cathy Carver.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). He Xie (detail), 2010. Porcelain, dimensions variable. Installation at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., 2012. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. Photo by Cathy Carver.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Stacked (detail), 2012. 760 Forever Bicycles, dimensions variable. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Straight (detail), 2008-12. Steel reinforcing bars, dimensions variable. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Coca-Cola Vase, 2007. Vase from Neolithic Age (5000-3000 B.C.E.) and paint, 40 x 40 cm. Collection of Larry Warsh. © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Map of China, 2008. Tieli wood (iron wood) from dismantled temples of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), 161 x 215 170 cm. Collection of the Faurschou Foundation. © Ai Weiwei.

Installation view of Ai Weiwei: According to What? at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., 2012. Top: Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995. Triptych lambda prints, each: 75 3/8 x 70 7/8 in. (191.5 x 180 cm). Bottom: Colored Vases, 200710. Han Dynasty vases and industrial paint, dimensions variable. Photo by Cathy Carver.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Colored Vases, 2007-10. Han Dynasty vases and industrial paint, dimensions variable. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. Installation view of Ai Weiwei: According to What? at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., 2012. Photo by Cathy Carver.

Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957). Marble Helmet, 2010. Marble, 30 x 25 x 15 cm.Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. © Ai Weiwei.

 

Ai Wei Wei, Portrait.

Ai Weiwei: A Consideration of Artist as Hacker, Blogger, and Interventionist

Ai Weiwei, Rock, 2009-2010.

Ai Weiwei and Herzog & de meuron: Bird’s Nest. National Stadium, Beijing, China. 2004-2008.

Ai Weiwei’s photo of a surveillance camera set up by the authorities outside his house in Beijing, posted on the artist’s blog in June 2009.

Ai Weiwei, Hanging Man, 1985.

Ai Weiwei: Tree, 2009-2010.

Ai Weiwei, Table With Two Legs on the Wall, 1997.

 

De Pont Museum
Tilburg
+ 31 (0)13-5438300
Ai Weiwei
March 3-June 24, 2012

By LOTTE PHILIPSEN

One of the Ai Weiwei’s works consisted of sending 1,001 Chinese citizens to Kassel, Germany (Fairytale, 2007); he filled Tate Modern Turbine Hall with 100 million hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds (Sunflower Seeds, 2010); and he designed the Olympic Stadium in Beijing — to mentiona few accomplishments.

Add to that social activism that led to detention in China for three months in 2011. On ArtReview’s latest list of powerful names in the art world, Ai Weiwei is number one.

Ai’s work is hard to pigeonhole because he goes across traditional boundaries, both in terms of his artistic media and his role as an artist. To look at his artistic media first, Ai seems to work in a broad spectrum of seemingly familiar art forms, such as photography, sculpture, installation, and so on.

But more than anything, his way of doing it conceives all these genres together in an overall conceptual practice, where the art form immediately encountered by the audience, e.g., photography, always turns out so strongly to indicate other art forms, such as craft or performance, that it would be more accurate to define Ai as a multimedia artist.

Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (which is not in this exhibition but was shown in the Louisiana Museum’s 2007 Made in China exhibition) is by any measure a tightly composed triptych of photographs with a powerful visual simplicity that is impressive in a pictorial work, but the three photos, actually, are only a small part of the work. In its entirety, the work involves 1) Ai holding a Han dynasty urn in his hands and, as the title states, 2) dropping the urn, which 3) shatters against a tile floor. In the work, a choreographed, cinematic, and performative narrative fuses with the static photographs, giving them a distinct temporal dimension.

Examining the work’s formal structure, concepts taken from the world of theater, film, or literature, such as “staging,” “dramaturgy,” “editing,” “narrative structure,” and “rhythm” seem more relevant than strictly art terms, such as “perspective” and “composition.”

The work’s interdisciplinary, medial structure, however, on a formal level is closely connected to the semantic implications of the title. A 2,000-year-old urn must be considered a significant arthistorical object of the kind we would normally treasure and handle with care. Should such an object break, it would be as the result of an unfortunate accident or uncontrollable vandalism.

However, as Ai’s cool gaze into the camera and his calm posture make clear to the viewer, this is a deliberate act. The simplicity of the physical act itself, underscored by the simplicity of the work’s formal structure, is thus combined with a layer of meaning of almost immeasurable cultural complexity, raising a number of questions about the relevance of traditional Chinese culture in a contemporary context.

This, is how Ai goes across artistic media: a fearless, devil-may-care way of combining concrete material with the staging of that material and semantic cultural references that adhere to the material, making the works, as overall constructions, seem both ingenious and simple. That goes for all the works in this show: Forever, Fountain of Light, Tree, Rock, and Hanging Man in Porcelain.

In that sense, it may be more meaningful to define Ai’s artistic move as a form of radical remixing. Like a DJ on his computer ripping sound bites from existing material and mixing them into new tracks — a bass line from here, a guitar riff from there, a violin piece played backwards — Ai appropriates cultural references and concrete materials and recombines them in new ways.

Ai Weiwei (Beijing, 1957) has to a rare degree alternated between traditional physical artworks, conceptual projects, social activities, design and architecture. This has given his oeuvre the character of a compass that registers the currents of the age in art globally, and stimulates discussions of the role of art in his native China.

He expresses himself in a distinctive, simple formal idiom, in a dialogue with factual history and personal memory. His art relates to the universal human condition and insists on respect for the individual.

By using traditional Chinese materials and craftsmanship as well as modern industrial technology, Ai Weiwei’s works not only reflect and thematize the main currents of the twentieth century — its dreams and monuments; at the same time they attempt, like all living art, to leave a mark in the eternally flowing present.

The exhibition, co-organized with the Louisiana Museum in Denmark, will include large, striking works: Forever, 2003, Fountain of Light, 2007, Trees, 2009-2010 and Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, 2010, as well as a number of films.

Forever, the earliest work in the exhibition, has connections back to the artist’s fascination with the father-figure of conceptual art, Marcel Duchamp. 42 bicycles of the "Forever" brand, the favourite means of transport of the Chinese for decades, have been ingeniously stacked in a cylindrical tower, a "cycle" that goes nowhere, since all the handlebars and pedals have been removed.

Fountain of Light is a shining seven-metre tall crystal tower. The work refers to the Russian architect Vladimir Tatlin’s (1885-1953) never-finished tower, created for the Third International in 1919 during the Russian Civil War.

Trees, consists of trunks and branches slotted together from individual pieces of Chinese camphorwood. Individually they stand there without growing, but in the assembled form they unfold impressively and transform dead matter into a metaphor of growth and life.

Next to the trees there are two '"ock formations", Rocks, independent works in porcelain, forming an overall installation that challenges the viewer’s idea of the archetypical Chinese. The exhibition also includes a selection of Ai Weiwei’s films in the documentary genre, showing how the artist works as an activist.

Ai Weiwei, Forever, 2003.

Ai Weiwei, Fountain of Light, 2007.

Ai Wei Wei, Sunflower Seeds, installation at Tate Modern..

Ai Wei Wei, Portrait, At the artists studio, Beijing 2010. Photo: Tessa Praun.

Ai Weiwei, World Map, 2006-2009, Cotton and wooden base, 120 x 800 x 400 cm, Courtesy Faurschou Foundation.

Ai Weiwei, under House Arrest, on a Collision Course with the Government

Ai Weiwei, Beijing, 2003, video, Courtesy the artist and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne.

Ai Weiwei, Beijing: Chang' an Boulevard, 2004, video, Courtesy the artist and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne.

Ai Weiwei, Beijing: The Second Ring, 2005, video, Courtesy the artist and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne.

Ai Weiwei, Beijing: The Third Ring, 2005, video, Courtesy the artist and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne.

Ai Weiwei & Serge Spitzer, Ghost Gu Coming Down the Mountain, 2005, Red and white porcelain, 96 vases, 27 x 35 cm each, Courtesy Faurschou Foundation.

Ai Wei Wei's studio, Beijing 2010. Photo: Tessa Praun.

Ai Wei Wei's studio, Beijing 2010. Photo: Tessa Praun.

Ai Weiwei and curator Tessa Praun in the artists studio, Beijing 2010. Photo: David Neuman.

Ai Weiwei, Fairytale people, 2007 (No. 0999), C-print, 100 x 100 cm, Courtesy the artist; Leister Foundation, Switzerland; Erlenmeyer Stiftung, Switzerland and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne.

 

Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall
Freihamnen, SE 115
+ 46 8 545 680 40
Stockholm
Ai Weiwei
February 3-June 10, 2012

Ai Weiwei has remarkable sensibility and strength in his visual expression, which is effective in conveying a rather complex and significant content.

When exhibition curator Tessa Praun met Ai Weiwei in his studio he had just been held under house arrest for a few days. He was calm but keenly aware that he was already in a very uncertain and tenuous situation.

Tessa Praun, curator at Magasin 3, met Ai Weiwei in fall 2010 at his Beijing studio to begin work on the exhibition. Tessa Praun said, "After the events of the past year I think that it is ever more important for elements of his political work to be present in the exhibition."

Magasin 3 presents the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in his first solo exhibition in Sweden.

The exhibition focuses on a number of Ai Weiwei’s monumental installations and his political work. A reading room which includes documentary films gives visitors a chance to learn about his multifaceted efforts to foster social change in China — an activism that puts him on a collision course with the regime.

Ai Weiwei often refers to pre-revolutionary China and its cultural and craft traditions in his work. He seeks out iconic objects with great cultural and symbolic value for the Chinese, and then deliberately treats them with complete disregard for its worth or intended function.

Much of his work is a commentary on the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) during which countless cultural treasures were destroyed in order to pave the way for contemporary China, so marked by both communism and capitalism. The works chosen for the exhibition all address Chinese socialism, mass production and global trade.

Ai Weiwei was born in 1957 in Beijing. He co-founded the avant-garde artists’ group Stars at the end of the 1970s before moving to New York in 1981. There he was a leading figure in the community of exiled Chinese artists, writers and musicians and became an active member of the American intellectual and artistic scene,

In 1993 Ai Weiwei returned to China where he has worked not only as an artist, but also as a curator, architect and blogger. In recent years his activism for social change in China has increased, making him one of the most outspoken critics of the regime.

Prrogram
In conjunction with the exhibition Magasin 3 is inviting international participants to take part in a series of lectures, panel discussions and film screenings. Events will address Ai Weiwei’s art, democracy and human rights in relation to creativity and how digital media is used to in the struggle for freedom of expression. The program series is organized together with ABF, Bio Rio, Goethe-Institut, Moderna Museet and Swedish PEN.

Ai Weiwei, Fairytale people, 2007 (No. 0860), C-print, 100 x 100 cm, Courtesy the artist; Leister Foundation, Switzerland; Erlenmeyer Stiftung, Switzerland and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne.

Ai Weiwei, Fairytale people, 2007 (No. 0561), C-print, 100 x 100 cm, Courtesy the artist; Leister Foundation, Switzerland; Erlenmeyer Stiftung, Switzerland and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne.

Ai Weiwei, Fairytale people, 2007 (No. 0200), C-print, 100 x 100 cm, Courtesy the artist; Leister Foundation, Switzerland; Erlenmeyer Stiftung, Switzerland and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne.

Ai Weiwei, Stool, 2008, Stools from the Qing Dynasty, (1644-1911), 68 x 38 x 65 cm, Private collection, Courtesy Faurschou Foundation.

Ai Wei Wei's studio, Beijing 2010. Photo: Tessa Praun.

Ai Wei Wei's studio, Beijing 2010. Photo: Tessa Praun.

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, 2009, Porcelain 5 tons, Dimensions vary with installation, Courtesy Faurschou Foundation.

Ai Weiwei, Fairytale Dormitory (1 unit), 2007, wood, steel, fabric, plastic, bamboo, (Fairytale dormitory quantity: 10 units for women and 12 units for men), 200 x 781 x 545 cm, Courtesy Ai Weiwei,

Ai Weiwei, September 2009, © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei, Soft Ground, 2009, Wool, 3560 x 1060 cm, © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei, Rooted upon, 2009, 100 pieces of tree trunks, 640 x 3500 x 1100 cm, © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei, Rooted upon, 2009, 100 pieces of tree trunks, 640 x 3500 x 1100 cm, © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei, Remembering, 2009, Back packs and metal structure, 925 x 10605 x 10 cm, © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei's Interrogations of Chinese Culture, History, Politics & Tradition

Ai Weiwei, Map of China, 2004, Iron wood (Tieli wood) from dismantled temples of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), 51 cm, Ø 200 cm, photo: Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei, Table with Two Legs on the Wall, 1997, Table from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), 90.5 x 118 x 122 cm.

Ai Weiwei, Cube in Ebony, 2009, Rosewood, 100 x 100 x 100 cm, © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei, The Wave (Prototype), 2004, Porcelain, 12 x 32.5 x 23 cm.

Ai Weiwei, Remembering, 2009, Back packs and metal structure, 925 x 10605 x 10 cm, © Ai Weiwei, Foto: Marino Solokhov.

 

Haus der kunst
Prinzregentenstrasse 1
+ 49 89 21127-115
Munich
Ai Weiwei. So sorry
October 12, 2009-January 17, 2010

On May 12, 2008 an earthquake, magnitude of eight on the Richter scale, occurred in the Chinese province of Sichuan. Because of negligence in the building of schools, a large number of school children were victims. Despite efforts of the Province of Sichuan's administration to prevent Ai Weiwei's investigations, He was able to research and publish over 4,000 names of schoolchildren, who had perished in the earthquake, on his blog.

With his installation Remembering designed for Haus der Kunst's façade, Ai Weiwei commemorates the victims in the Sichuan earthquake.

On August, 12, 2009, Ai Weiwei was staying at a hotel in Chengdu in order to testify in court in defense of Tan Zuoren who had been accused of "undermining the authority of the state" because he had called for an investigation of the many collapsed school buildings following the earthquake in Sichuan.

At 3 a.m. that day about 30 armed police stormed the rooms of a hotel. Using physical force, the policemen temporarily arrested Ai Weiwei and ten of his volunteers. In so doing, they were able to prevent Ai Weiwei from attending the proceedings in court.

In the afternoon of the same day, Ai Weiwei was released. Four weeks later, however, it emerged that the physical abuse suffered by Ai Weiwei had delayed effects: arriving in Munich, Ai Weiwei had a brain haematoma that had to be operated on.

The doctors in charge reported that the patient is well, but that he needed to stay in hospital for several days.

"How is it possible that such technical refinement and craftsmanship were able to develop and unfold in China under imperial tyranny? For me the Haus der Kunst, which was commissioned by Hitler for exhibitions of German art, provides the contextual and formal framework in which to examine this question."

Ai Weiwei

The exhibition presents two new large-scale works created especially for the Haus der Kunst. Additionally the show brings together early photographs, films made since 2003, the documentation of the documenta 12 project, Fairytale, as well as a selection of works made after 1997.

The exhibition's title So Sorry is directed at the new culture of apologizing with which politicians and managing boards react to the misguided developments in the financial markets and to other global crises.

Blog activity & political involvement Ai Weiwei believes that the most important political debates of the last decade in China have been initiated through the Internet. He, therefore, feels this medium has great potential to bring about social change. The blog that Ai Weiwei maintains is visited by an average of 10,000 people each day, attracting great interest. In his blog https://blog.aiweiwei.com/ and also in http://www.bullogger.com / blogs/ aiww/ Ai Weiwei documents his activities and artistic projects, repeatedly calls for freedom of the press and expression, as well as for independent critique and opinions from his fellow Chinese. Every time his blog is shut down, Ai Weiwei opens a new one somewhere else. Encouraged by the Haus der Kunst, he will now blog for the first time in English (http://aiweiwei.blog. hausderkunst. de/, from September 3, 2009).

On May 12, 2008 an earthquake with the magnitude of eight on the Richter scale occurred in the Chinese province of Sichuan. Among the circa 80,000 victims were several thousand children, who were buried underneath the rubble of collapsed schools. Because the buildings around the schools remained conspicuously unharmed, accusations were made of botched building work; these, however, were rejected by the government. Together with a team of about 30 volunteers, Ai Weiwei researched the names of the victims — in opposition to the government, which did not officially provide information on the actual number of the dead, and which threatened parents with reprisals if they provided their dead children's names. Nonetheless, Ai Weiwei was able to publish more than 4,000 names on his blog.

New works from 2009 Remembering is designed for the Haus der Kunst's façade consisting of 9,000 backpacks made specifically for this purpose. With this installation Ai Weiwei recalls the earthquake in Sichuan since many backpacks of the buried children were found under the collapsed schools. The backpacks on the façade are in one of five colours and arranged to spell out the sentence "She lived happily for seven years in this world" in Chinese characters. These words stem from the mother of one of the earthquake victims commemorating her daughter. The pixel-like effect of the large image stretches across the entire façade. It is 100 metres long and ten metres high, and attached to the columns in front of the building with a steel structure.

Also created especially for the exhibition is the woolen carpet Soft Ground, which will cover a surface of 380 square metres in the largest exhibition space. The pattern of Soft Ground is a faithful reproduction of the 969 stone floor tiles on which the carpet lies. In order to reconstruct the floor tiles exactly — including the traces left by 70 years of exhibition activity — each tile was first photographed and its position recorded. Handmade in a weaving mill in Hebei province, Soft Ground serves as a kind of buffer protecting the floor and also creating an acoustic effect.

Among Ai Weiwei's most recent works and included in the exhibition are: Rooted upon, a 100-piece large installation of tree trunks from all over China, that are arranged on Soft Ground; Cube in Ebony, a 100 x 100 x 100 cm cube of solid rosewood; and Bamboo and Porcelain, a piece the artist created together with Herzog & de Meuron that will adorn the rear façade of the Haus der Kunst.

Fairytale and Template With his project Fairytale Ai Weiwei drew a lot of attention at the last documenta (2007) by inviting 1,001 Chinese to Kassel. They arrived in groups of 200 and remained in the city for a week. For many of them, it was their first trip to a foreign country, for others their very first trip ever. Convinced that individual experiences are the basis of social change, Ai Weiwei wanted to make such an experience possible for some of his fellow countrymen. Every one of the 1,001 Chinese documenta guests is represented in the exhibition by a black-and-white portrait, which all together result in a photographic wallpaper. In addition to a documentary about the documenta project, the wooden sculpture Template will also be presented, as well as the living units Ai Weiwei designed for the Chinese as accomodation for their stay in Kassel: Each guest was provided with a bed, mattress and sheets, an antique chair and a black-and-white trolley suitcase for his/her luggage.

Destruction and Recycling Ai Weiwei uses Chinese antiques and spiritual artifacts that he alters significantly or whose destruction is integrated into his artworks. A well-known example of this are the antique Chinese vases that Ai Weiwei reworks: the three-part photograph series that depicts him dropping a vase, which breaks into a thousand pieces (Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995); vases painted with the name Coca-Cola and vases dipped in industrial paints (ongoing series). At first glance such actions and performances seem like iconoclastic gestures, yet Ai Weiwei's aim is to pose questions about how old and new can coexist, what the new quality of tradition could look like and how modern China relates to itself.

Ai Weiwei commissions highly regarded traditional workshops such as the kilns in Jingdezhen to realize his porcelain works, and has the individual elements of his wooden sculptures joined together without nails, following the method of classical Chinese carpentry. Such exceptionally well-trained craftsmen react quite sensitively when asked to make their skills available to serve Ai Weiwei's artistic efforts: capturing sunflower seeds in porcelain or ancient wood taken from temples to create a map of China. The technical perfection and the highly sensual quality of Ai Weiwei's works provoke questions crucial to every culture: Who decides what is precious? Who decides what the established values for a society are and for what reason?

Biography and artistic development Ai Weiwei (b. 1957) is the son of the poet Ai Qing. Mao personally admired Ai Qing but during his policy of the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976) only poetry dedicated to himself was acceptable. Since Beijing was therefore becoming too dangerous, Ai Qing left for Shihezi in Xinjiang Province with the help of a friend. As the second oldest son, Ai Weiwei helped support the family. Ai Qing was rehabilitated in 1976; in 1979 he was able to travel to Austria and Germany, where he visited the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. The family then moved back to Beijing, where Ai Weiwei began to study at the Film Academy. After moving to the United States in 1981, he studied with Sean Scully at the Parsons School of Design in New York. When his father became ill, Ai Weiwei returned to China in 1993 and has lived in Beijing ever since.

While in New York, Ai Weiwei's artistic work was characterized by various excursions into materials as well as formats, like painting, sculpture and photography. In the early 1980s he created paintings of nudes that were vaguely reminiscent of figures in an Edvard Munch painting; these were followed by three portraits of Mao in 1985. In 1986, after completing two paintings of the Mona Lisa, which he was able to handle with surprising emotional neutrality considering the highly charged quality of the subject, Ai Weiwei turned his back on painting. However, as early as 1983 he had created his first sculptures using ordinary objects; these attest to his fascination with Duchamp and Warhol. By the end of the 1980s Ai Weiwei took mostly photographs as a form of sketching and remembering.

Back in China, Ai Weiwei published an Art Manifesto of the Chinese avantgarde with three books, in which other contemporary Chinese artists discussed their approaches to art (The Black Cover Book, 1994; The White Cover Book, 1995; The Grey Cover Book, 1997). His first works involving antique Chinese vases and wood were also created during this period. These materials, which he continues to use today, were later joined by fresh water pearls, stones, tea, marble and lacquer.

His own studio residence that Ai Weiwei designed and built following his return to Beijing marked the beginning of his architectural activities. Among the subsequent public commissions was the stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics; Ai Weiwei served as a cultural interpreter for the architects Herzog & de Meuron, who were commissioned with the design and construction of the stadium. His largest architectural project to date, Ordos 100, is a residential development in Inner Mongolia. Its hundred villas are designed by 100 architects from 27 countries selected by Herzog & de Meuron — Ai Weiwei curated the project.

Ai Weiwei has also made several feature length films about the gridlock in Beijing (2003-2005); the camera travels through the streets of Chang'an Boulevard and the Second and Third Ring Roads. Without any additional plot, the films can be distinguished by the weather conditions: Beijing: The Second Ring was shot only on cloudy days, while Beijing: The Third Ring only on sunny days — "an almost mathematical and unemotional way to show the powerlessness of the people, and the blind nature of the redevelopment" (Ai Weiwei).

Ultimately the daily writing on his own blog is also an integral part of Ai Weiwei's artistic activities, for he believes that taking a social and political stand is the moral responsibility of every artist.

A book documenting the exhibition's installation will be published by Prestel, with an essay by Mark Siemons and texts from Ai Weiwei's blogs; 128 pages, hardcover € 19,95, stitched binding € 2; ISBN 978-3-7913-5014-1.

Ai Weiwei, render image of The Rug, © Ai Weiwei, 2009.

Ai Weiwei, September 2009, © Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei, Map of China, 2004, Tieli wood from dismantled temples of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), h. 51cm, 200cm, © FAKE Studio.

Ai Weiwei, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995, Triptych, b/w-prints, © FAKE Studio.

Ai Weiwei's Forays into the Realms of Culture, History, Politics & Tradition

Mori Art Museum
53F Roppongi Hills
Mori Tower
6-10-1 Roppongi
+ 03-5777-8600
Minatoku, Tokyo
53F Galleries
Ai Weiwei – According to What?
July 25-November 8, 2009

Ai Weiwei, whose activities cover a wide range of genres, from art and architecture to design and publishing, has an international reputation cemented by highly acclaimed projects over the last few years, including Fairytale, his contribution to Documenta 12 in 2007 for which he brought 1,001 Chinese people to Europe, as well as his collaboration with architects Herzog & de Meuron on the “Bird's Nest” Olympic Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Until now, Ai's work has focused on connections between art, culture, and society, and the role of the individual in society. In recent years, he has moved from architectural projects, a major part of his practice since 1999, and adopted looser parameters that allowed him to explore more freely timeless themes.

The exhibition shows 26 works since the 1990s, and including six new works, one of the largest solo shows for the artist. The subtitle, According to What? comes from a painting by Jasper Johns, whose work was the catalyst for Ai's entry into the contemporary art world. It hints at one of the show's goals: to explore connections between Ai’s work and its artistic, cultural and historical backgrounds. Exhibits vary, ranging from sculptures to photographs, video and site specific installations. They are organized into three sections: Fundamental Forms and Volumes, Structure and Craftsmanship, and Reforming and Inheriting Tradition. The fundamental approach and motivations that unite Ai's myriad creative activities are brought into relief.

In Fundamental Forms and Volumes, exhibits include a series of cubic and polyhedral forms reminiscent of minimal art and a new installation consisting of blocks of Chinese tea. A video showing Beijing as though on closed-circuit television cameras is also shown.

 

In Structure and Craftsmanship, work from the simple, minutely carved Maps series, the Furniture series made since 1997 and an object, called Moon Chest, which straddles art, architecture and design, are shown. Reforming and Inheriting Tradition, includes works based on ceramics from the Neolithic period and Han and Tang Dynasties and an installation consisting of reassembled parts from Qing Dynasty architecture.

The exhibition includes a documentary video (2 hrs 30 mins) of Fairytale, the Documenta 12 project, a “social sculpture,” and a new version of Chandelier and Snake Ceiling.

Despite being based in a country experiencing one of the most rapid periods of economic and social change ever, Ai Weiwei manages in his artworks to link the past with the present and the individual with the world.

Ai WeiWei was born in Beijing in 1957 as the son of Ai Qing, one of modern China’s most renowned poets. He entered the Beijing Film Academy in 1978. In 1979 and in 1980, Ai took part in exhibitions as a member of “Xingxing (The Stars),” the first avant-garde group in China after the Cultural Revolution. Soon afterwards in 1981, Ai moved to New York, where he spent 12 years until his return to China in 1993.

The influence of American contemporary art and European modernism such as the Dada movement and Duchamp is evident in his work of the 80s. After his return to China, alongside his work in publishing, Ai became involved in the founding of the China Art Archive & Warehouse (CAAW) as artistic director, and has since continued to support emerging young Chinese artists. In 2000 Ai curated the Fuck Off exhibition in Shanghai. The extreme works featured in Fuck Off were hugely controversial, yet the exhibition itself has become legendary.

Meanwhile, Ai’s design for his home and studio in 1999 became a catalyst for the artist to further extend his creative activity to include architectural designing, and Ai has been nvolved in over 50 architectural projects within the six to seven years that followed. He designed contemporary art galleries and studio units in the vicinity of his residence in Caochangdi, an area which has been attracting increasing attention as the second art zone after 798 Art Zone in Dashanzi.

Ai Weiwei, Colored Vases, 2006, neolithic vases (5000-3000 BC) and paint, installation size: 50 x 200 cm, in different sizes H ca. 9-31 cm.

Ai Weiwei, Forever, Bicycles, 2003, 42 bicycles, h. 275cm x 450cm, © FAKE Studio.

Ai Weiwei, Bowl of Pearls, 2006, porcelain, freshwater pearls, each h. 43cm, x 100cm, © FAKE Studio.

Ai Weiwei, Cubic Meter Tables, 2006, huali wood 13 pieces, each, 100 x 100 x 100cm, © FAKE Studio.

Ai Weiwei, Table with Three Legs, 2006, Table from the late Ming or early Qing Dynasty (1368-1911), 116 x 155.5 x 155.5cm, © FAKE Studio.

Ai Weiwei, Ton of Tea, 2006, 1 ton compressed Tea, 100 x 100 x 100cm, © FAKE Studio.

Ai Weiwei, Coca Cola Vase, 1997, vase from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and paint, 24cm x 18cm, © FAKE Studio.

 

Ai Weiwei, Fairytale, Random selection of 1001 participating Chinese, Courtesy People's Architecture (www.
peoplesarchitecture.org).