The Armory Show
March 27 – 30, 2008
Ai Weiwei - 'Bowls of Pearls' 2007
Ai Weiwei’s multifarious installations, objects and videos are deeply intertwined with China’s cultural and historical heritage. Today’s political and social developments in China constitute key elements of this fascinating work. By appropriating and changing the historically shaped cultural languages and their forms and contents, Ai Weiwei consciously de- and reconstructs—expanding thus the contemporary contexts in which the cultural and aesthetic use of materials and meanings are constituted. An example is Ai Weiwei’s employment of antiques by melting e.g. artifact with modern marketing propaganda in his famous Han Dynasty urn with a Coca-Cola Logo – a tongue-in-cheek comment on temporal and aesthetic dislocation.
Already in the mid-Nineties (notable are his faithful fakes of famous pieces dating back to the Qing Dynasty) the artist started using porcelain as a material. Porcelain has been traditionally employed to shape household wares of daily practical use, but also for purely aesthetic, and refined decorations. Ai Weiwei’s "Bowls of Pearls" at this year’s Armory Show confer a new status on everyday mass-manufactured objects like a rice or tea bowl as metaphors for basic elements required to live.
The remarkable thing about Ai’s work is its complexity and multi-layered quality. Within a Chinese context, his radical point of view is unique offering insights into modern-day China by treading terrain where values are set differently. The playing field that Ai Weiwei is skillfully expanding is not one of declamatory statements or polemics, but rather one where ideas and concepts are at work, inviting an exchange of ideas and of imagination. His work is like a narrative telling us of the great metamorphoses of the world.
Ai Weiwei works as an artist, architect, and curator in Beijing. His work is encompassing a variety of media. It is discussed today in an international context. "Fairytale", his major project at Documenta 12 in Kassel (2007), for which he had invited 1001 Chinese citizens to participate attracted the attention of the media worldwide.