Munich's Haus der Kunst is quite likely the best-curated exhibit space in the world right now, and they've demonstrated it yet again with an outstanding show by Ai WeiWei called "So sorry."
Ai is really one of the more interesting artists working right now, producing work that's both visually challenging as well as politically charged. Not surprisingly, he's run afoul of the Chinese government on more than a few occasions, being harassed, beaten and arrested for the challenge he presents to the ruling order in that country. His work makes a strong statement about the value of culture and community, and about the destruction of both by the state. While it's specific to the Chinese situation, its real power comes from the fact that it could be applied with equal validity in other countries — like the U.S., of course, which is equally culpable when it comes to allowing culture (and collective memory/experience) to be sacrificed, though in our case the sacrifice is usually made to market forces rather that state power. That said, those two are becoming increasingly indivisible, as the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC demonstrates...
Sunday, January 31, 2010
"No Two Are Alike" uses the stumps of cedar trees that were removed from Beijing's hutongs during the massive redevelopment projects that have transformed that city's residential areas. The low-lying courtyard houses that once dominated the city have been destroyed in favor of anonymous high-rises, which might be cleaner and more "modern" but seem unlikely to foster the kinds of interpersonal relationships that flourished in the shared space of the hutongs -- and for the Communist government, that's probably the point.
Along the wall, ordinary Chinese citizens have been photographed in four or five settings. As the title says, "No two are alike," and neither are the cedar trees.
For this piece, Ai WeiWei used beams from a 17th century temple that was dismantled in 1911, which he found in some sort of scrap dealer's yard. Here they're combined with antique tables in an interesting interpretation of a traditional form that resembles a dragon when seen in full.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
No photos this time, just a recommendation that you visit BLDGBlog to see pictures of Biosphere 2 in its current state of decay. I drove up to Biosphere 2 some years ago while on the Copperstate Rally, back when people were still living in it. As campy as it seemed at the time, it was impossible to imagine that it would end up becoming so totally decrepit less than a decade later.