Monday, 27 May 2013

Ai Weiwei's Art = Reality

A stencil of the artist that was posted around when Ai was detained by police
When artist and activist Ai Weiwei disappeared for 81 days in 2011, we wondered where he went and if we would ever see him again.

For him the experience of being illegally detained in a secret prison somewhere in Beijing was something he would never forget -- not just the physical and psychological confinement of being watched 24 hours a day by two guards at a close distance, but something he would document in his mind for the world to know.

He has managed to do this in the form of six dioramas at half the real size, that will be shown at an art gallery by the Zuecca Project Space that is run concurrently with the 2013 Venice Biennale.

How Ai managed to complete these in secret and transport them to Italy is also a feat in itself, though the artist declines to disclose this.

Instead he lets the dioramas clearly illustrate what he went through.

He made himself memorize every aspect of the rooms, the white padding of the walls, and the blue colour of his flip flops. And if what he has depicted is accurate, the scenes look frightening but almost comical at the same time.

In one scene he sits at a table facing the wall while two young guards stand by him and watch him eat from four tin containers of food. Another shows him sleeping with a bright light shining in his face as the two uniformed guards watch him. In an even more outrageous trespassing of privacy, the two men watch him shower too.

These dioramas show how the state wants to show it has full authority over Ai and his fate, but also the extent to which the authorities were willing to spend on detaining a man in his mid-50s who had not done anything illegal.

Not only do these works have artistic merit, but also serve as evidence of how Ai was detained by the government for over two months, to show the world what kind of a repressive state China is.

Who has the last word now?

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