Ai Weiwei – Royal Academy – My thoughts – Part 1
Its not like me to take loads of photographs at an exhibition, unless I’m documenting my own work. I find the practice rather sad really, even today before I returned home, in the national Gallery, phones were being used to capture the smallest details of great classic paintings. I feel this takes something away from the work, it loses its power to have an impact on you when you are in it’s presence. Memory and first hand-experience of the work – the Aura is very important. If you can see it in the flesh you have strong reaction to the work then just a snap-shot of if which doesn’t really do it justice.
However with Ai Weiwei an exception was made. (I always ask permission of the gallery before taking anything) Knowing that this was something special. I was encouraged to take photographs if anything, at the artists request for the work to go viral, spreading his message on social media. A tool he has used as part of his practice rigorously to his advantage. I’m going to share a few highlights with you and my thoughts of the show, even after having a few beers I was soon sobered by the power of the work.
The first one we have a selection of pieces including Grapes (2010) and which uses a number of stools which are fused together with craftsmanship to create this geometric shape. Ai is celebrating his countries heritage for the pieces it has produced, the material at their disposal and making something new here. There were others in the space which really got you looking at the workmanship which is flawless.
The next room was like nothing else I had seen that day. I knew he had previously investigated the aftermath of an earthquake on 12th May 2008 that destroyed 20 schools. A tragedy that was practically ignored by the government. They did attend but no thorough investigation was carried out. This compelled Ai to carry out his own, which has been documented, which could be watched on a screen. I was more drawn to the physical work. First a carpet of steel rods that had been laid out carefully on the ground. On the walls eitherside a canvas list of the dead children, some not even given completed dates as they could just not be found. I had entered an investigation that was to prove the countries own negligence. Looking at the various widths of the rod that had been straightened out by hand, you could see the evidence was not in the governments favor, it was appalling and devestating to see such evidence. It took a while to leave this space.
In the next room was drawn to a model of the his old studio which was once funded by the government before it was later demolished. This acts not just as an architectural model but also a memento and artifact of his recent past. Made from wood, delicately crafted from what appears to be a single block.