Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The weight of it all, Ai Weiwei at the AGO

Tea House 2011 by Ai Weiwei studio.  Three forms made from tea grown in southwest China.  Each house weighs more than one tonne.  Tea is a very important part of traditional Chinese culture.
Grapes 2010  40 antique wooden stools from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) .  Qing Dynasty furniture has no nails.  Taking traditional objects apart and putting them back together in a new way prompts us to question our assumptions. 
Straight 2008-2012.  38 tonnes of steel rebar, Ai Weiwei studio.  Made from rebar that Ai Weiwei recovered from collapsed schoolhouses following the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province.  Each piece of mangled rebar has been straightened through a laborious process.  Each was hammered 200 times by hand.  In the back of the above photo is the list of 5,000 names and the ages of each of the students who died in the badly constructed schools.
The work itself becomes the art.  The "citizens' investigation" did this work while Ai Weiwei was in jail.  This was repetitive labour, it took skill and it took time. A second piece (not shown) entitled Forge was also made with artful attention in which two identical mangled bars were made to exactly match one from the earthquake.  
These two massive pieces emphasize the fact that it had happened.  That we have to respect life.

snake ceiling, 800 children's backpacks  "How can these facts be altered?  The hearts stopped beating, their limbs decayed, their shouts disappeared."  Ai Weiwei
For a look at the beautiful installation of Forge in Mary Boone gallery, NYC last year, click here.  For the CBC review of Ai Weiwei According to What click here.  This important exhibit is at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto until October 27. 


  1. Monumental! Thank you so much for posting it. How I wish I could share it on my Face Book page with my 50 or so friends...Wei Wei is a master human being and artist.

  2. A very impressive artist .... who says a lot (despite the difficult circumstances !!!)

  3. So nice to see photos of this exhibit again. I saw it back in January at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC.

  4. Oh the steel ... Ai Weiwei is such a brave man

  5. I was reading Alice Munro last night. Her character traveled through your "places" and i woke to her winning the Nobel. So pleased. On many levels ! Xxo

  6. monika brueckner3:27 pm

    saw an exhibition in Munich - very fascinating.....


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