Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz

Ai Weiwei's wonderful show was constructed completely by volunteers under the artist's remote direction. He's not allowed to leave China. The installation starts at the New Industries Building which is somewhat decrepit but light and airy. Red jacketed volunteers act as guides. The photos are a mixture of mine and Madame Le Chef's.

The first thing you see is a big paper dragon kite. This is the start of the piece "Wind".

This is what the dragon looks out at.

The dragon is surrounded by bird kites.

The second piece is "Trace". It's portraits of political prisoners done in Legos. Although the artist was imprisoned by the Cinese government, he doesn't let any other governments off the hook.

There are books explaining what the people were imprisoned for. In order to see the next piece, "Refraction" you have to go into the very narrow gun gallery and peer through panes of glass which are covered by plexiglass since some of the panes are broken. The reason the corridor was named "the gun gallery" is that the guards observed the prisoners working from there. If a riot broke out, the guards could break the glass and shoot the prisoners.

The claustrophobic nature of the gun gallery is a good preparation for the next pieces which are in the much older central prison building. Madame Le Chef and I agreed that the most moving piece was "Stay Tuned". You were invited to sit in a cell and listen to a song or speech or poem which was broadcast from a square hole in the wall, down near the floor. It was as if you were listening to a message from another cell.

The text was posted on the wall across from the cell. I really liked this poem.

As always, World bless Pussy Riot.

The last piece that we photographed was "Blossom". Various bathtubs, basins and toilets in the hospital were filled with porcelain flowers made in China. That, the beautiful light and the decaying walls transformed them into weirdly sacral objects.

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