So, i originally planned on this post being about the First Thursday event that is held at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) on the, yepp you guessed it, first Thursday of each month. I thought it would be interesting to write about how everyone dressed up and ate delicious asian take out boxes of garlic chicken and rice, sipped on overpriced drinks, and forcefully listened to awful, loud live music, but i basically just summed it up in that one (run-on) sentence. The fun thing about it? We were in the AGO.
J had convinced me to buy my ticket for the Ai WeIWei exhibit as well as the party, and i am so thankful for this.
Before stepping in to the AGO, i had not done the proper research on this inspirational man, who J describes as a political dissonant from China.
In 2008 when a massive earthquake killed close to 90,000, government officials refused to release the exact number of deaths, nor did they acknowledge any accountability. To remember the school children lost in this disaster, WeiWei created a massive serpent solely out of childrens backpacks, each one commemorating a live lost.
The entrance into the exhibit is a long hallway of photographs Weiwei has taken, as well as an installation of 12 monitors displaying photographs taken between 2003-2011. Some of these photos were posted on his blog before the Chinese government forced its closure in 2009. He titles these images “258 Fake” after his Beijing studio located at 258 Caochangdi. He calls his studio ‘Fake’.
In 2009 Ai WeiWei was taken into custody by the Chinese police, and during this confrontation he suffered a brain hemorrhage. As he was being escorted by police, he snapped this cute selfie of himself in the elevator mirror, which he quickly uploaded to Twitter.
Weiwei uses Twitter, along with other forms of social media, to communicate his views to the world ever since his blog was forced to shut down.
After walking through the long, picture filled hallway, we entered into a large open room that housed a handful of art displays Weiwei has created. All of them, of course, a commentary on corruption in China.
Ai WeiWei uses his art to advocate for freedom of expression and the value of individual lives and voices in a totalitarian state. His political activism and controversial artworks have led to his arrest and the confiscation of his passport.
Ai WeiWei is forced to spend the rest of his years under surveillance at his Beijing studio. He is not allowed to leave China.
Many of the displays in this room were created from materials found and saved during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). He uses these sacred materials and ultimately destroys their value by using them in his artwork, as a comment on the Chinese governments attempts to cover-up China’s past.
The ‘China Log’ is created using 8 pillars from the Qing dynasty, and when you look at the cross section you can see a map of China. He is trying to say that even though many historic artifcats (or information) has been destroyed, the past is still a vital part of who ‘WE’ are.
The ‘Moon Chest’ was my favorite installation, built entirely out of Huali, a very precious wood from the Chinese quince tree. All 7 chests had openings which aligned to show each phase of the moon.
I really wish the chicks face at the end of the chests was more visible because i have a feeling the face she is making is hysterical. I’ll leave that one up to your imagination though.
Photographs lined the walls of the exhibit, many of which were taken during Weiwei’s time in New York City between 1983-1993. He captured many things, from influential people, all the way to important events such as the Tompkins Square riots in 1988.
The Coca- Cola vase is another very obvious commentary on the Chinese government and the totalitarian state. Weiwei took ancient vases and inscribed a very well- known American brand onto them: Coca- Cola.
There are many interpretations of this display, however the exhibit asks “Is Ai using the logo to represent democracy in America, where the rich and poor can equally afford a Coke?”
He used these vases in many of his political commentaries.
There was a bunch of these vases that Weiwei dipped in colored paints, destroying their ancient value in the modernization process.
He also took a series of photos where he is holding the vase, and letting it drop to the ground, smashing into many pieces.
In my opinion, he is saying that the Chinese history, as they tell it, is a fraud. You cannot hide the past, or better yet, you cannot lie about the past. It is the glue that binds cultures together, and by preventing Chinese citizens from knowing the truth, the Chinese government is removing a very basic human rights.
‘Straight’, one of J’s favorite installations, is created out of pipes from a collapsed schoolhouse in the 2008 earthquake. Weiwei had each and every piece of mangled pipe straightened out, which he then used to create this piece. The installation looks like an earthquake fault line.
The exhibit was quite busy when we saw it, so i would highly recommend to everyone to check it out on a quiet afternoon to get the full effect of his work.
As we left the exhibit, they handed out big sheets of paper to everyone, kindly asking us to write down what WE stand for.
Such a cool idea. I did not get as creative as J, but it was still nice to take a moment and think about what, in this crazy mixed up world, is something I strongly believe in? What is something that i would defend whole- heartedly if it was challenged? What would offend me enough to take a stand?
They even offered an opportunity to shave your head for justice, just as Weiwei had done. Judging by the amount of hair balls on the ground, people stepped up to the plate. Including me! (HAHAHA)
After all the stencils, crayons and paint were left behind, J and I devoured some delicious food, washed down by a few hefty glasses of wine (which i am currently still feeling as i write this post).
I wish i could say the actual party was a hoot, however the live band they had legit made me want to run into a corner and cry. Loud, heavy, screamo… in an art gallery. WHAT were they thinking? So, after a few more drinks, we headed out to the next party.
Thanks Ai WeiWei, for a truly eye opening experience. I might stumble back into your loving exhibit arms before its gone, just to get some alone time with your wonderful works of art.
As for now, i am going to take a stand, literally, and go get me some coffee. And maybe a few Tylenol.