Ai Weiwei (China, 1957) was nominated as the most influential person in the art world by the British magazine ArtReview. In 2011, he distinguishes from a lot of creators because he is a non-speculative artist. He converts a tightrope into a rout where compromise is not allowed and he installs himself in the middle of a crossed fire between his work and nation. For the first time in Chile, he is exhibiting Inoculation, which is curated by the Brazilian Marcello Dantas and it makes his first stop at the CorpArtes Cultural Center, so it can keep traveling during September for all Latin America.
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Just like vaccines are introducing into organs, virus and bacteria in order to protect our physical integrity, Ai Weiwei has decided to inoculate us with more than 30 artworks against indifference and pain of the one that are suffering, so he can respond to his commitment with life just like the Law of the journey (B Prototype , 2016). The refugees group that are drifting above a monumental inflatable boat where their principal protagonists, with no features, are appealing to the universal equality concept with a short story proving that humanity is completely separated from its collective responsibility. Just like a poem from Ai Quing, his father: “In her face and her body, you can see the wounds done by infinite stabs, but she is still up with a smile in front of the heavy sea.”
As a social worker, he challenges the satisfaction symmetry, infecting us with his rebellious denominator that throws a diatribe against social alienation, racist supremacy and political segregation; and other unrecognizable truths where the most important thing is that his proposal does not rest exclusively in the testimony, but creates a disturbing effect using a logic that coincide complaints and metaphors. Two dimensions of a compositive practice are almost epic just like in Sunflower Seeds (2010), a work made with 15 tons of handmade porcelains seeds by 1600 workers in Jingdezhen, which is an ancient city that produces this pottery. So, Ai Weiwei uses those seeds to represent the lack, but at the same time, the soul of his eating basis during the Cultural Chinese Revolution (1966 – 1976), where a lot of people passed away. The artist and his work include more than just an aesthetic expression and a strong moral and spiritual duty with his homeland.
A declaration of principles communicated in wonderful and dramatic allegories that cover the wings with a wallpaper starting in the irreverence to the power with Finger (2015), continuing with the Animal that Looks like a Llama, but is really an Alpaca (2015). This happens from a kaleidoscopic base elaborated with veneered surveillance and control mechanism of the State, until it reaches Odyssey (2015) and an extensive tribute to everyone who faces wars and exodus that this bring. Foucault affirms: “The same history that bears and determines us is more like a war then a language.” A prove of that are the Crab house (2015) video, the Crab installation (He Xie) and the photographs registered in the feast of this crustacean. This was developed by a studio of Shanghai just before it was demolished by people who try to put their totalizing vision by using violence.
Analyzing this from a critical perspective, it is impossible to talk about a specific artwork. It is important to emphasize how he naturally mixes Chinese traditional craftwork with the permanent influence of universal art. This can be appreciated in the Stacked Porcelain Vases as a Pillar (2017) where it has features from Constantin Brâncuși and the Endless Pillar (1918 – 1938). Obviously, he is always worried about his social approach just like in Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (2016), which is triptych of a photographic mold built with Lego pieces, capturing the moment where Ai Weiwei destroys intentionally the classic figure by recreating what happened in the famous Chinese Cultural Revolution during his childhood. Also, it is essential to emphasize the Hanging Man in Porcelain (2009) where with one coat hanger he drafts the silhouette of Marcel Duchamp, taking over his work and his ready-made idea from a piece full with formal precision. A compositive use employed also in Moon Chests (2008), which is an originally piece made by 81 wooden chests from Chinese quince. Five of them are exhibited here through their upper and lower apertures, he recreates the moon cycles putting a mathematic logic, the furniture functional minimalism and the randomness of the spectator’s movement together.
In two interventions, the urban trace ends up being determinant. First, the exhibition at CorpArtes’ esplanade with the bicycles installation “Forever” (2015) that is made with over 1,000 bicycles linked together. This is a sort of a radial emergence that interrupts the environment constructive calm. Second, at the National Archive of Chile, since May, one of his last installations can be seen. Safe Passage (2016) is composed with hundreds of life vests used equally, representing the number of refugees. Until a short time ago, the vests covered the patrimonial building pillars.
Therefore, Inoculation is a unique exhibition and Ai Weiwei shows us his visual maturity, versatility and verisimilitude expressed in a sensitive perspective full with humanity, but also with his incalculable artistic dimension, which is illustrated not only in these artworks that transcend the author, but also in his eloquent phrase that is a result of his artistic clarity. The artist states that “art always wins. Anything can happen to me, but art will survive.”
Cover image: Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 2015. Crédito_Courtesy of Ai Weiwei and CorpArtes.