with Ai Weiwei
In His Largest LEGO Work To Date, Ai Weiwei Recreates One of Claude Monet’s Most Famous Paintings
Known for incorporating recognizable, everyday objects into monumental sculptures, Ai Weiwei (previously) has created acclaimed installations using bicycles, life vests, and seeds and flowers made of porcelain that often challenge political issues such as the social unrest of his native China, the global refugee crisis, and themes of liberty and freedom of speech. Since 2014, he has utilized LEGO as a medium but not without some controversy along the way due to the political nature of his work. Now, Ai has completed his largest LEGO piece to date in a recreation of “Water Lilies,” one of French Impressionist artist Claude Monet’s most iconic artworks.
Monet’s Water Lilies series was inspired by the artist’s garden in Giverny, France, featuring a foot bridge over a pond teeming with wildlife. This idyllic setting was the design and creation of Monet himself, who at the turn of the 20th century had the nearby River Epte partially diverted in order to bring his vision to life. Ai challenges our perceptions of natural beauty and reality, replacing brush strokes with plastic bricks redolent of digital pixels, using a more saturated color palette, and embedding shadows that evoke a hint of unease.
Both accessible and recognizable, LEGO allows Ai to broach difficult topics in a format that is more approachable. On the right-hand side, he has placed a dark portal depicting the door to the underground dugout in Xinjiang Province where he and his father, Ai Qing, lived in forced exile in the 1960s.
Composed of nearly 650,000 pieces in 22 colors, “Water Lilies #1” is part of Ai Weiwei: Making Sense, the artist’s forthcoming exhibition at The Design Museum. which runs April 7 through July 30 in London. Follow more updates on Instagram.
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Ai Weiwei Has Designed Face Masks to Raise Funds for COVID-19 Relief
A defiant middle finger, a heap of sunflower seeds, and various mythical creatures are all silk-screened in black ink on the blue cloth backdrops of nonsurgical masks. The artworks the most recent intervention by artist and activist Ai Weiwei (previously) to help raise money for organizations directly involved with combating the coronavirus pandemic.
Inspired by a documentary he’s making about COVID-19, the artist decided to create an entire collection after printing his iconic middle finger onto one of the disposable cloths. “An individual wearing a mask makes a gesture; a society wearing masks combats a deadly virus. And a society that wears masks because of the choices of individuals, rather than because of the directive of authorities, can defy and withstand any force. No will is too small and no act too helpless,” he writes on Instagram. While masks have become a ubiquitous symbol for the COVID-19 crisis, many of the inky renderings hearken back to Ai’s ongoing commitment to humanitarian efforts.
Hand-printed in the artist’s Berlin studio, the newly released face coverings are sold singularly and in groups of four and twenty. They’re available for purchase through June 27 on eBay, and proceeds will be split equally between Human Rights Watch, Refugees International, and Doctors Without Borders. (via Artsy)
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Ai Weiwei’s Film ‘Human Flow’ Documents the Staggering Scale of the Global Refugee Crisis
To create his new documentary film Human Flow, Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei spent a full year traveling through 23 countries, following the journeys of some of the 65 million people forced from their homes to escape famine, climate change, and protracted wars. Crossing oceans and visiting refugee camps in precarious border cities in Afghanistan, Greece, Iraq, Kenya, Mexico, Turkey and beyond, Ai documented the stories of fellow humans of all ages and nationalities who currently have no place to call home.
The individual stories of several refugees and their journeys—or near perpetual state of limbo—are interwoven throughout the film, though Ai focuses mostly on a macro view that illustrates the unimaginable scope of the unfolding crisis that has enveloped entire nations. By its nature, Human Flow recognizes that there are no easy solutions to these monumental catastrophes that impacts all of us directly or indirectly, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. A healthy dose of compassion and a recognition of a shared humanity would be a good start.
On a personal note, I felt deeply impacted by the film and strongly urge you to watch it.
On Sunday, April 29, 2018, Human Flow will be screened simultaneously across the United States. Immediately following, Ai will participate in a livestream Q&A with audiences around the country. If you are interested in hosting a public screening in a school, library, community center or elsewhere, you can find out more from ro*co films.
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Ai Weiwei Wraps the Columns of Berlin’s Konzerthaus with 14,000 Salvaged Refugee Life Vests
Ai Weiwei has produced a five-column installation on the facade of Berlin’s Konzerthaus, a collection of 14,000 life vests from refugees who landed on the Greek Island of Lesbos after battling the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey. Ai hopes the bright orange installation draws attention to the hundreds of refugees that are trying to reach Europe each day, over 400 of whom have died attempting the same journey since the beginning of the year.
Although thousands of the life jackets can now be seen in Berlin, this does not begin to account for the thousands of jackets that remain on the shores of the Greek island, pointing to the number of refugees who have passed through the island. Since last December Ai has shared dozens of images of refugees who have come to Lesbos on his personal Instagram account, including this image of a mass of life vests left behind.
The temporary art installation was created for the Cinema for Peace gala which took place February 15, 2016. Ai was the honorary president of this year’s jury. (via Designboom)
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Ai Weiwei’s Suspended Bamboo and Silk Beasts Highlight Ancient Chinese Mythology Inside a Paris Department Store
Ai Weiwei‘s (previously here and here) first exhibition in France is not staged at the Centre Pompidou nor the Palais de Tokyo, but within Paris’s Le Bon Marché, the city’s oldest department store founded in 1852. At its center the exhibition includes 20 illuminated silk and bamboo creatures that float above the cosmetics department, a contradiction of subject matter that Ai embraces as he allows the two vastly different worlds to collide momentarily during his store-bound exhibition.
The show, titled “Er Xi” or “Child’s Play,” is in many ways tied to the artist’s family and childhood. His father, the Chinese poet Ai Qing, passed on stories to Ai of his time spent living and studying art in Paris in the 30s. Thinking about his father’s history within the city, Ai also contemplated his own background with the art of kite making, enlisting 12 kite makers from the Shandong Province in China to build the sculptures from similar materials he used to make his first kite at the age of ten.
In addition to these hanging sculptures, Ai also installed work in the department store’s front windows and throughout the store, including a 65-foot dragon on Le Bon Marché’s ground floor. Weaving together 2D and 3D works, Ai illuminate’s the mythology found in the 2,000 year-old “Shan Hai Jing” (Classic of Mountains and Seas), a series of traditional Chinese children’s fables that reference birds, fish, and dragons.
“Introducing the fantastic within a retail space strikes the imagination of customers, visitors, passersby,” said Ai in a statement. “We all lead parallel lives in this other world of dreams, fantasies and feats. We must learn to coexist with them as they are an integral part of our humanity; to embrace our mythology. Children know how to do this naturally. This exhibition speaks to our inner child,” the artist said in a statement.
“Er Xi” runs at Le Bon Marché in Paris through February 20, 2016. (via Designboom)
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Bathroom Fixtures at Alcatraz Transformed into Porcelain Floral Bouquets by Ai Weiwei
The Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei currently has an exhibition on Alcatraz, the notorious island used as a military fortress and federal penitentiary. Amongst a large body of work created specifically for Alcatraz is “Blossom,” which has been installed in several hospital ward cells and medical offices. And as its name suggests, intricately detailed encrustations of ceramic flowers are blossoming out of sinks, toilets and tubs that were once used by hospitalized prisoners.
The curator offers two possibilities in interpreting Ai’s porcelain blossoms: a symbolic offering of comfort to the imprisoned or perhaps an ironic nod to China’s famous Hundred Flowers Campaign of 1956. But to understand the piece we think this quote by Ai himself is all you really need: “The misconception of totalitarianism is that freedom can be imprisoned. This is not the case. When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill.”
Ai Weiwei’s exhibition on Alcatraz will be open through April 26, 2015. (via My Amp Goes to 11)
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Editor's Picks: Animation
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