Wei Wei's work transforms tragedy into art, demonstrated by his creations inspired by the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 where 5,000 schoolchildren were killed. He has memorialized the children in a wall of names, and in a ceiling mounted "snake" made of 5,000 backpacks like those that were used by the children. Part of the social statement made by his art is to employ hundreds of workers and pay them to work on his art projects therefore helping the economy and infusing art into the people.
"Snake Ceiling" 2009
"Wenchuan Steel Rebar", 2008-12. He reclaimed the rebar from the Sichuan earthquake rubble and paid workers to straighten 40 tons of rebar, which took two years.
This wooden " icosahedron" made from Huali wood was assembled without nails.
In "Kippe". 2006, Iron wood was salvaged from dismantled temples as were iron parallel bars from the Qing Dynasty 1644-1911. According to Wei Wei, there was a set of parallel bars and a basketball hoop in every schoolyard. People would stop and comment on the beautifully stacked firewood in the region where he grew up.
40 antique wooden stools were reclaimed to draw attention to the art form of common objects.
His Han Dynasty vase series, takes antique vases and colors them with industrial paints.
His vases evoke the viewer to consider questions of authenticity and value of original historical works in contrast with society today.
In his furniture series, 81 "Moon Chests" were made with traditional joinery methods and have holes that depict, when aligned, the phases of the moon.
I hope you have enjoyed this recap of the exhibit "According to What?" by Ai Wei Wei.
[sources: personal photos, Hirshorn.si.edu, exhibit catalog "Ai Weiwei:According to What?"]
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