Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Import of Ai Weiwei

If you can get to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC before February 24, you owe it to yourself to see the exhibit Ai Weiwei: According To What?  I don't know much about conceptual art but I know what I like and I am in awe of his creative genius.  For those of you who don't know about Ai, you can Google to find out about his life, his work, his experiences in the US, and his troubles in China.  But this exhibit (I believe his first in North America), and the accompanying installations at the Hirshorn and the Sackler, will give you a firsthand look at what this one artist is attempting to do with both his work and his words.  

His massive Zodiac Heads installation makes you ponder the meaning of the twelve animals symbolizing the Chinese astrological signs and makes those animals more than human due to their intricacy, expression, and sheer size (and that eleven are actual animals and one — mine — is the mythical and mighty dragon).  Walking around this Circle of Heads made me wonder what if, what if these animals towered over us and we didn't have what my friend and animal-advocate Kris calls "the right of capture"? Our human sense of entitlement that just because we can, we kill?

There is a majestic magnificence to these bronzes and they present these creatures in a way that heralds their the superiority over we humans.  I wish I could fully explain the significance of the images I've taken or bring you there and walk you through the thoughtful philosophical approach that Ai Weiwei brings to his art — but I can't.  I can only share bits and pieces of what spoke to me.  And he must've spoken to Elton John as well because this past week he told his Beijing audience that he was dedicating his concert to the spirit of Ai Weiwei, which must have upset the concert's organizers as Ai has been under house arrest and is banned from leaving China.

The images should give you something to ponder, but Ai's words can do a far better job explaining his perspective than can I.

This may have been my favorite piece and may best portray the simplicity and sharpness of his if you can, make your way to the Hirshorn Museum and soak in the importance of his point of view — before  some government somewhere decides you shouldn't.

The field and the houses are all made of tea. The scent was glorious.

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