Brooklyn Museum Presents AI WEIWEI: ACCORDING TO WHAT?, Now thru 8/10
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 today, 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 installa-
tion 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 of female 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 large-scale 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.