Ai Weiwei freely mocks the Communist government of China in his works. Paweł Althamer’s Bródno Sculpture Park will feature a new sculpture by Weiwei – a work which, once installed, will be invisible.
Chinese artist, architect and social activist Ai Weiwei is today regarded as the most well-known contemporary art figure - not only due to his outstanding talent and ability to distribute content effectively via the internet, but also, ironically, owing to the repressive measures China has taken against him.
In 2008, Ai Weiwei was the artistic consultant for the Beijing National Stadium project for the Olympic Games. However, he then boycotted the event, accusing the government of using the Olympics for propaganda purposes. It was then that he started to investigate the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in which hundreds of thousands of people died, and which the government succeeded in covering up right before the start of the Games.
On his blog, Ai Weiwei published a list of the names of schoolchildren who died when their schools collapsed. Multiple tons of rubble and rebar recovered from the collapsed schools were used in an installation the artist presented at The Venice Biennale in 2013.
The installation came along with a film in which the artist stigmatised bribery and the scrimping on construction costs which in effect led to the collapse of the buildings.
Ai Weiwei’s series of nude self-portraits with a stuffed pony as a fig leaf is one of his best known works, for which he was accused of creating and spreading pornography.
The title, Grass Mud Horse refers to a Chinese saying often used by the opposition, which stands for ‘f…your Motherland’ – and relates to Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
Ai Weiwei’s arrest in 2011 came when Chinese officials accused him of tax evasion. The most important cultural institutions, western media and governments pleaded for Weiwei’s release. After nearly three months of incarceration, the artist was released. China ordered him to pay $2.4 million for purported tax evasion, and also confiscated his passport.
Ai Weiwei created a replica of the cell in which he sat in on the outskirts of Beijing for his heavy-metal inspired video Dumbass. The song was dedicated to “those who will never be heard”.
He is forced to work from a distance. This requires a specific sort of logistics – sending maps, plans, film, using social media, e-mail and fax are essential communication tools, says Sebastian Cichocki, the chief curator at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, who also curated the Bródno Sculpture Park.
At the Sculpture Park, Ai Weiwei is to bury three broken vases in three different places. The replicas he has created refer to a precious object dating back to the 14th century, which recently reached the highest price of $27 million at an auction of Chinese antiques.
Weiwei likes this kind of paradox – on the one hand antiques reach exorbitant prices at auctions, on the other hand, historical heritage is getting carelessly disposed of – old districts are constantly smashed and demolished by bulldozers – adds Cichocki.
Using found objects of historical value is one of the characteristics of Ai Weiwei’s art. The artists presented 1001 vintage chairs of the Ming and the Ding dynasties, which he found in garbage and debris, at Documenta in Kassel in 2007.
Ai Weiwei w Parku Rzeźby na Bródnie from Culture.pl on Vimeo.
Ai Weiwei decided to refer to the character of Targówek being essentially the oldest area of Warsaw, where people first settled as far back as the early Medieval period. It was in Bródno that traces of the first settlements were found. There have been numerous archaeological discoveries in the area.
The whole of Warsaw conveys an image of painful, underground marks, especially after what happened in the 20th century, says Cichocki. The sculpture is going to be completely invisible. Even though it has volume and weight, the audience will not be able to access it.
Inevitably, the sculpture is part of the tradition of conceptual art, land art and minimalism – Smithson, Barry, LeWitt, Mendieta, Geva, Ullman and others. The artists provokes a myth, a story based mostly on oral tradition rather than materialisation of a spectacular object jutting above the trees. Stories, press clippings and memories from burying the vases in the park will bear witness to the concept.
Weiwei’s piece in Bródno Sculpture Park is called To Be Found, and is addressed to future generations.
We can assume that, like the traces of medieval settlements we discovered in Warsaw at the end of the previous century, the bits of Chinese vases will be discovered by future generations long after we are gone. We could apply a different temporal perspective – the one often used in texts by artists of the 70s – Robert Smithson and Walter de Maria - an idea of geological time in place of human time. Where pieces of art are subject to the natural processes of decay, erosion, and weathering, just like rocks.
The shells of vases will be proof of the existence of a specific homo sapiens activity – the mysterious handling of objects and ideas – which today we call contemporary art.
Bródno Paradise from Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej on Vimeo.
Bródno Sculpture Park is an ever-evolving contemporary art exhibition in the area of Bródno Park. Paweł Althamer initiated the idea, and invited the Town Hall of Targówek and the Modern Museum of Art, as well as the local inhabitants, to participate in the project.
Since 2009, artists including the likes of Olafur Eliasson, Monika Sosnowska and Rirkrit Tiravanija, have realised works in the park.
Since Ai Weiwei cannot travel, Althamer and his crew made a video-postcard – a kind of an invitation to Warsaw.
Bródno Sculpture Park
Ai Weiwei "To Be Found"
Curator: Sebastian Cichocki
Start: 13 July 2014
Paweł Althamer says that Ai Weiwei’s project is simply breath-taking as it is based on the logic and sensibility of a child. Children bury treasures, they believe in the mysterious. They have a different sense of time. As a child, you perceive the world as something constant. And this is where the dark narrative of this piece lies – a tale of a world without human beings, about a future unknown to human civilization, adds Cichocki.
Sources: culture.pl, wyborcza.pl, artmuseum.pl, theguardian.com, own materials
Author: Agnieszka Sural, 25.06.2014
Translated by: Kasia Dolato