Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ai Weiwei

On the eve of Barack Hussein Obama's election victory on November 4th, I went to Battersea to see the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at The Albion Gallery.

Whichever way you do it, Deptford to Battersea is not easy on a week day. I drove, it took ages, and when I looked for The Albion at its address in 'Hester Road' I found this is no longer an accessible road, but a pedestrianised walk that leads to a new Norman Foster building by the riverside. I had to park a couple of streets away.

I had come because I'd read about Ai Weiwei in both Time Out and in The Sunday Times (which a friend had given me because of the feature on Damien Hirst's wife in the mag section)...Waldemar Januszczak (formerly of The Guardian) wrote the review and you may still find it here:

Ai Weiwei, a Chinese dissident, was the original artistic consultant to Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium, which was designed by Herzog & de Meuron (who commissioned him, rather than the Chinese government), architects of Tate Modern and Deptford's very own Laban Centre. Despite (or in spite of) his role in the design, Ai Weiwei has continued to protest about the destruction that was being visited upon Beijing by the Olympics — the communities that were bulldozed and the 'undesirables' who were removed from the area - a familiar background story, perhaps, to any Olympic city story...

I went because I saw a picture of the work in Time Out that included blue and white porcelain. The large scale work on show at Albion featured huge structures made of ricketty scaffolds of floor-to-ceiling bamboo (similar to that which would have been used as scaffolding in the construction of the Birds Nest) arranged at tottering angles - in one room with bamboo chairs and stools added to the bamboo structure at intersections, and in another room bamboo poles are capped at either end by blue & white porcelain urns.

Ai Weiwei re-appropriates ancient cultural icons into contemporary artforms. Here's another link:

His own site strangely doesn't work very well, so to get an idea of his work it's best to do a Google Image search. He also showed in Sydney Australia earlier this year at Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation and there's a good piece about him on their site:

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