Ai Wei Wei

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Ai Wei Wei breaking a vase…

Let’s be clear: Ai Wei Wei is not Glaswegian for ‘Yes, I do need a pee’.

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A table but not as we expect it…

Ai Wei Wei is an iconic Chinese artist and human rights activist who has an exhibition at the Royal Academy in London at the present. It’s funny, quirky, biting, painful, poignant and memorable – all you want from art really.

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trying sitting here

The thing that stands out is his, and his team’s, stubbornness. Goodness knows how many times he’s had the rug pulled from under this feet by the authorities yet he keeps using art to say ‘eff you’ to the repressive and ridiculous regime.

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building materials used in the buildings that collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake 2008: formed as an earth rupture

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every name of every child killed: these sorts of things hit more than you expect… how can a little line represent a life?

He highlights injustice, the deaths of 5000 school children through shoddy government building work, the inexorable and mindless loss of heritage in the built environment, his own solitary incarceration.

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He had a new studio built; two ears later they pulled it down; the crab house video is an extraordinary indictment to the misuse of power but the Chinese don’t have the monopoly on stupidity in government.

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Ai Weiwei’s He Xie – the sea of porcelain crabs refers to censorship, playing on the similar-sounding ‘river crab’ and ‘harmonious’, part of a Chinese Communist slogan.

But as I walked round what kept coming back to me most was how he epitomises the essence of protest, of defying conventional wisdoms and sticking a finger up to authority and those in power.

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Ai Weiwei loves is plays on words: Cao is both grass but also phonetically the ‘eff word’ in Mandarin (apparently); marble is a precious material, carving it a great skill yet this lawn is useless. It is redolent of so much meaning it was easier just to look and enjoy the oddity of it.

Today Parliament sits to discuss and vote on extending the bombing range of our forces in the Middle East to include Syria. In one sense, pushing the limit of bombing 150 miles or so hardly makes a difference given we already bomb Iraq.

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a marble representation of the pollution issues that face China as it expands

Civilians will be killed alongside the dog dirt that is Daesh; this will not really make us a lesser target for terrorism and I’d say another attack somewhere is inevitable; and I do not buy the idea that there’s any sort of coherent plan for the ‘afters’ in all of this – we will bomb and maybe send in some troops and eventually there will be a ceasefire and a debate and it will all be over until the next bunch of loons and psychos take their turn.

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a single cast block of resin and the joke is n the officious looking guard, fractured by the art he keeps safe….

This will happen and nothing I do or say will make the slightest difference. But I could go and megaphone outside Downing Street and, probably, not risk the losses Ai Wei Wei has experienced. Yet he goes on with his chiselling at the granite walls of authority and I don’t.

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complicated the bicycle chandelier… old older and new and confused and compromised – China today

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He uses a lot of old timber, especially iron wood; the way his forms are reattached man-made nature if you like are endlessly fascinating to follow round.

It doesn’t matter if I agree or disagree with the subject matter; people need to remember they have a voice and exercise it. That’s what he reminded me yesterday. Me and Jeremy Corbyn make strange bedfellows but he’s right on this. And given the opportunity to say so, I will say so. And if you agree or disagree I don’t mind; all I care is you say so.

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He uses wallpaper to capture the links between obvious controls – hand-cufffs, surveillance cameras and the insidious controls of twitter and social media to try and manipulate opinion as a control.

On one’s own it might seem like pissing in the wind, but we have to keep on because eventually the granite will be worn away.

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nuff said….

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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20 Responses to Ai Wei Wei

  1. jan says:

    Interesting artist – I’d love to know how he got that shot of the vase falling. Syria is a mess and we seem to be making it worse. I feel so sorry for the people.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ali Isaac says:

    I get that he’s making a political statement with his art, but personally I like my art to look like art. A bunch of crabs in a corner, or old bicycle wheels does not look like art to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sacha Black says:

    Interesting. I like modern art so this is right up my ally. I’m probably half way between you and Ali I like modern obscure art as much as I do the next Renaissance or impressionist piece. But I’m not worldly enough to really pick up on the political implications behind anything. I’m skeptical enough to think governments go to war to generate an economy. I think it’s disgusting. Did you know the House of Commons is actually a corporation? A FOR profit one no less. Anyway enough of that and I really don’t want a debate on it either. I think war is mindless and an utterly disgraceful use of responsibility.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I seem to be constantly reminded of the movie The Shawshank Redemption these days – in either frivolous or profound matters, the same image arises……. the escape hatch is dug a teaspoon at a time and the dirt carried out in his pocket to be shaken free as he walks about under the eyes of the guards. ……….. It’s the daring to do, the doing and the sticking at it that counts in the end.

    I wonder what would happen if everyone started to think for themselves instead of believing the propaganda they are fed and each individual one of us simply refused to go to war.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “people need to remember they have a voice and exercise it”. But as you indicate, will we be listened to? I know what my Christmas wish is.

    I like the beautiful pen and ink drawing even though it’s rude, but am afraid the heaps of bits etc don’t appeal!

    Like

  6. willowdot21 says:

    I am sorry I don’t like any of this, especially the crabs they really make me cringe! …. sorry I know I am a pleb!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. noelleg44 says:

    I didn’t know about this artist – his voice comes through loud and clear but in such an impressive way. Thanks for the introduction!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Norah says:

    Thanks for introducing me to this artist, Geoff. He has certainly done some interesting and provoking work. It’s great to have your explanation of it. The images created in response to the earthquake and the number of deaths of children are confronting.
    I like your reminder that we have a voice and that we should use it. I guess we choose what we use it for. Ai Wei Wei chooses a different medium to share his voice. Some of the images make for very compelling messages.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Charli Mills says:

    Stunning work, and he’s so adept in many mediums. Brings to mind, how many ways can one tell off the powers that be — marble, rock, film, wood, glass. A powerful collection to see in person! And yes, it does make us look at our own state of national affairs.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      I never really understand how people like him can continue to protest but I’ve never felt oppressed in those ways. And national affairs are tortured things where I sympathise with the decision makers even if I think they are wrong; it is an awful job when people’s lives are at risk.

      Like

  10. Helen Jones says:

    Love this post – both the photos and the commentary on speaking up and standing by our beliefs. And, is the photo of him dropping the vase the famous incident where he destroyed an old and valuable vase? Looks like a great exhibition.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I actually liked some of the pieces but I liked your commentary even more. Explained by you, of course, it’s very powerful. Thanks for sharing this, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

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