I’m back from a quick trip to the San Francisco Bay Area, where I had the chance to see the Ai Weiwei “@ Large” exhibition on Alcatraz Island. When I first heard about the exhibit, I had my usual blasé reaction to his name: “I am so sick of hearing about Ai Weiwei, can’t people think of any other Chinese artist to be interested in?” But fortunately I overcame my AWW fatigue and went to see the show.
My main objection to Ai Weiwei is simply that he gets all the attention. He is brilliant, wildly creative, and has a political agenda. But how can one object to his political agenda? Thank god there is an artist who speaks for the repressed, the intelligent repressed especially, and has the charisma and savvy to get heard. Non-mainstream media, then, needs to call attention to the important artists who express ideas that don’t make the headlines yet (hint, hint!).
So, “@ Large” was truly brilliant. Ai Weiwei created installations that celebrated the vivid power of the imagination as a means of defying the darkness and confines of a penitentiary. He paid tribute to forgotten prisoners. He raised questions as to the human value of freedom…well, no, he created so much tension between the works of art and the context in which they were placed, that it was unquestionable what we should value.
Here is some good background information about the exhibit, Alcatraz, and how Ai Weiwei got to this site (thanks, Christina Larsen).
The works are beautifully executed and whimsical, Ai Weiwei’s hallmarks. Click on the images below for more comments.