Ai Weiwei – Royal Academy – My thoughts – Part 2
I feel this exhibition needs more than a single post, it’s so vast even for a few pieces that got my attention. As I moved through I could see his humor coming through, rather dark as it turns out. I was drawn to a piece in the corner of the room, where loads of porcelain crabs had been piled up. I was reminded of the images of concentration camps such as Auschwitz which have museums that act as an important reminder to the massive loss of life. Thinking of the piles of shoes, bags etc that are behind walls of glass. OK not half as many as the concentration camp but the effect was just the same, a reminder of the food that was eaten at an opening and closing ceremony of his studio whilst he was under house-arrest. Seen as the remains of the last creative and wanted destructive act by Ai. At the time River Crab in Chinese (Hi Xie) meaning “harmonious” was a word used by the government as propaganda. A massive middle finger, something we see quite a few times in the show.
Moving onto the next room I was confronted by a single piece that consumed the space, looking much like the trees in the Academies courtyard. Fragments (2005) was like a constructed forest which you could get lost in. Again a lot of craftsmanship and carpentry has gone into this piece which you are in awe of.
The next room I was surround by pieces made from Marble – Marble Stroller (2014) beautifully constructed pieces. I had never seen the soft rock used in such a way. Usually a material for more classical sculpture which you’d rarely associate with modern art, reinvigorated here in the brutal forms we have here. Depictions of security cameras which were originally fixed inside his studio when he was under house-arrest. He has also created a world out of the rock which is both harsh and delicate, a balance that is hard to achieve in the context of the objects he has made,
And finally the piece S.A.C.R.E.D (2012) in the final room that blew me away, 6 identical scale models of the prison cell he was in for 80 days during 2011 (from April 3 2011). Ordered to never talk of his time there, he hasn’t really broken that so much as issued drawings and sketches to be made in order to recreate 6 moments during that very testing time that would have otherwise broken anyone else. You can see from the images he was not left alone for a second. If he wasn’t being questioned he was being watched as he slept, went to the bathroom and even shower, he had no freedom. I wish I took a photograph of the room, these 6 metal boxes which view finders on two sides, one along the wall, another in the ceiling. He has invited us the go in with cameras to take photo’s. He’s letting the work do the talking. The idea that an image can say a thousand words is being taken literally as we can make up our own, share these images of our own. I have captured the moments as best I could below.
If before I wasn’t aware of the power of his work I well and truly have woken up to what he is saying and want encourage you to view this very powerful work that rounded off a days gallery gorging in the capital.