WK 2 – Artist of the Week – Ai Weiwei

About the Artist

Ai Weiwei was born on August 28, 1957 in Beijing China. Weiwei is a contemporary artist who practices in many mediums including installation work, photography, music, architecture, curating, film and sculpture. He is also known with being political active against the corruption of the Chineses government, where he’s actively protested for the rights of his people during  many scandals perpetuated by the Chinese government. In 1978, he attended the Beijing Film Academy and studied animation. Also, in 1978 he formed an early avant garde art group called the “Stars” that would eventually be broken up in the same year but Weiwei would still participate and release art work in exhibitions and shows. He would later live in the states from 1981 to 1993, where he would study English at the University of Pennsylvania and Berkley. Later he moved to New York City to attend the Art Students League of New York where he would eventually drop out (1983-1986). After his dropout, he would work odd jobs and would later be exposed to works from Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns, where he would began to create conceptual art by altering ready-made objects.


Formal Analysis

From his music to his photography, his art canvases are unique and bare quite the audience attention. Specifically, looking at his art installations amazes me, where he uses ready-made objects and creates a unique design or bigger art display using a multitude of the same basic building blocks. From using chairs to bicycles, he utilizes almost anything that people use on a daily basis and converts it to art. One of my favorite installations by Weiwei is a piece called “Forever Bicycles”, where he uses a multitude of basic full-metal bike frames (with full metal wheels and handle-bars). Also, being a person that loves bikes in general, where my hobbies reside in going to the desert and going dirt biking, was on reason why I chose this as my favorite art piece. At first glance, you can’t help to wonder how long it took to put the 1,200 bikes together in such a way. And by looking at his installations, they almost seem to represent geometric patterns and dynamic designs. By looking at “Forever Bicycles”, I find myself lost gazing at his dynamic piece looking at what seems to be a universe of never-ending bicycles.


Content Analysis

One thing to note and remember is how Ai Weiwei is heavily involved in the poltical sphere, where he continues to fight for the civil rights of Chinese citizens infringed upon by the corruption of the Chinese government. By specifically looking at the way he finishes his installations, you can make out a symbolic representation of the design and see a correlation of what his people went through. By looking at this piece, I could see a sense of urgency of him trying to unite his people. I can also see how this piece could symbolically represent the Chinese government’s power over people, and how the government condones its power over its Chinese citizens. Even Ai Weiwei’s father was targeted by the Chinese government, which could point out to another reason why he began revolting against the government, creating art such as this. Art being a great way to deal stress, his installations, in particular, symbollically represent the distress and frustration that he and many others feel towards the corruption of government and its abuse on its citizens.

Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Unveils This Year's Unilever Installation At The Tate Modern

Synthesis/ My Experience

I really love Ai Weiwei and his dynamic art work. From his inspiring photography to his dynamic, captivating installations, he clearly has not only the skilled mind of an artist but knowledge of the world and international issues that are still present. Even today, Ai Weiwei is still active against the corruption of government power, where he was involved in the recent Sichuan schools corruption scandal in 2008. The scandal which involved an earthquake hitting the Chinese province of Sichuan destroyed the school’s infrastructure, killing many innocent children. The schools infrastructure planning was not built around engineering standards, which resulted in the devastating collapse of the schools there. Ai Weiwei and other supporters would soon challenge this, and other corruption charges that the Chinese government were behind. By studying his art work and his work in the political sphere, it makes me more eager to try to create art with the objects I have around me now, where I used to take that for granted. His methodology of how he finishes his art installations shows that you can make almost any ordinary object into art. And for his political involvement, it makes me even more eager to challenge and question what our government does. Although a lot of people have their presumptions of the United States government and does not pertain to a corruption like mentality, his art work is at least a reminder that you should always be skeptical of people of higher power, and challenge them if they try to abuse your human rights.


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