I wasn’t planning on checking out Ai Weiwei’s exhibit titled ‘According to What?’ at the Art Gallery of Ontario after I had absorbed Bowie’s exhibit. But I am sure glad I did. It was not only funny, emotional but very inspirational.
Chronicling Ai’s work from the mid-1990s to the present, the exhibition blends art history, activism and traditional Chinese materials and symbols to create a compelling vision of the artist’s everyday reality and his ongoing fight for freedom of expression in the face of Chinese government censorship. Featuring more than 40 large scale works of art including sculptures, photographs and video and audio installations.
Ai Weiwei is one of the world’s most provocative contemporary artists. Ai is under constant surveillance at his home in Beijing and has been unable to leave China since the government confiscated his passport in 2011.
Ai Weiwei: According to What? includes many large-scale and detailed artworks, including:
• Straight (2008-12), which contains 38 tons of reinforced steel rebar recovered from post-earthquake fissures and arranged specifically for the exhibition;
• Château Lafite (1988), a sculpture comprised of a wine bottle and peasant shoes that pays homage to the artwork of Marcel Duchamp and Jasper Johns;
• Grapes (2010), showcasing a number of wooden stools from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) that artisans have rejoined into a cluster;
• New York Photographs (1983-93), a selection of 32 black-and-white documentary photos that Ai took during his time studying art in New York City;
• Surveillance Camera (2010), a piece of technology carefully replicated in marble, recreating the device that the Chinese government uses to keep an eye on the artist in his home; and
• He Xie (2010), an installation of more than 3,000 porcelain river crabs. The term “he xie” refers to the word “harmonious,” which is part of the Chinese Communist Party’s slogan and is now internet slang for official online censorship.
Ai Weiwei: According to What? is on display from Aug. 17 to Oct. 27, 2013 and the AGO is the only Canadian stop on a North American tour.