Artist, activist and dissident his work is political and always causes controversy, his multi media exhibition which showed mediums that captured the all the senses visual, auditory, olfactory and touch throughout different rooms at The Royal Academy of Arts. He recycles and re-invents new visuals from historic artefacts and current materials and creates powerful, emotive statements which explain and tell a story or an event of Chinese life, culture and politics. It takes the observer on a very powerful journey and stirs a wave of emotions and thoughts as the viewer makes their ways through the different halls.
Straight is compiled from the Rebar steel rods used to shape and hold the foundations and frames of buildings, they were took from the earth quake Sichuan in 2008.His team spent four years banging each individual rod back into shape, they were hammered by hand over 200 times, ninety tons of steel are laid out like a huge landscape they appear to look like waves.Video and photographs show the aftermath of the earth quake also of dead bodies, people being resuscitated, accompanied by personal belongs and the devastation of the crumbled mangled buildings. It explains how the government and the contractors merged together to buy cheaper materials for the cities public buildings, thus resulting in inferior buildings being constructed which was why they did not withstand the earth quake resulting in large areas being destroyed claiming the life of so many people. On the walls above the installation ‘Straight’ are thousands of names of the children who died in the earth quake that Ai Weiwei had researched due to the local government officials in the town refusing to release the names of the 5,196 of children that were victims. He gathers as much information on each child and their data is shown on a long white board in black print.
There are several outstanding installations on show such as,Fragments which is a structure made up of arch pillars made from antique tables and chairs, which are over 400 years old and came from the dismantled temples of the Qing Dynasty. The shape of ‘Fragment’ is the outline of a map of China, each arch has been pieced together by highly skilled craftsmen. S.A.C.R.E.D are six models of his cell which represent his 81 day imprisonment in 2011, were he was held illegally.Two military police watched him while he eats, sleeps and goes to the bathroom, they do not communicate with him at all, inside them it shows detailed scenes of Ai daily activities and also when they interrogated him.The Chinese government made him experience the detention hoping it would break his spirit and stop undermining them. A beautiful lighting which grabs your attention is the Bicycle Chandelier constructed from bicycles and crystals it is magnificent and it combined the different materials to reflect the symbolism of the bicycle and how it enables the population to get to work for the greater good of the country. It represents how the workers would cycle to the factories and farms across China, it was and is the most popular and economical form of transport.
Ai also presents marble sculptures, the Furniture Series and also a detailed model of his studio house that was built in Malu Town, Jading district of China. This is followed up with the story of its demolition, photography and He Xie the 3,000 porcelain crabs. It doesn't just stop here there is a vast array of pieces on display from ‘The Coloured Vases’ covered with industrial paint, human remains. Two specific things stuck out to me being the magnificent Trees outside which lure you into the entrance of the Royal Academy of Arts, where the visitors could observe and touch the structures and finally the Marble Couch where many people sat to rest, enjoy or reflect. While I was reflecting I came to my own conclusion, being the exhibition is a very strong visual live history lesson, full of many events or situations that we the audience may have or may never experience. Yet an experience that had an affect, it awakens your emotions to the injustice, pain, anger and suffering of people whose stories Ai tells. A living collaboration of Chinese culture with western elements and influences, its an outstanding exhibition that I encourage everyone to visit next time.