Ai Wei Wei

Recently came across this artist after a read of the interview Hans Ulrich Obrist in conversation with Ai Wei Wei  in the book Ai Wei Wei published by Phaidon, 2009. Ai Wei Wei is a contemporary Chinese artist who has successfully established an artistic career both in America and China. He is also the one who provided Herzog and De Meuron with the inspiration for the bird nest Beijing Olympic stadium.

What caught my eye after flicking through the book (it was on the new books display stand) was the image of this violin. Violins are so pretty! And sound so nice..if you can play it properly. I have this thing for violins, they’re quite interesting as subjects for art works –  including my Yr 13 painting board. Will upload in future if I remember. Anyway here it is:

Violin. 1985. shovel handle, violin. 63 x 23 x 7 cm.

Reminds me of Duchamp’s ready-made, whom Ai Wei Wei was influenced by. I think I read somewhere that the shovel represents the working class and the violin the elite upper class. 

There were several other works which I like including:

The wave. 2005. Porcelain. 25 x 40 x 40 cm.

Wonder how he sculpted the waves for them to fold over so perfectly..

Map of China. 2004. Ironwood from dismantled temples of the Qing dynasty ( 1644 – 1911). 51 x 200 cm.

I like how a lot of his works have cultural significance, like this one. He returned to China after years in America and has remained there since. It mentioned in the interview how he had a blog which was very popular. I searched for it but found out it got blocked by the Chinese government.AH. So all the stuff on the news about China and google must be true..

He’s also built some buildings, though never trained as an architect. For his first house, he rented some land, made some drawings without thinking of architecture but just using pure measurement for volume and proportions and adding windows and doors. It was finished in 6 days and he moved in. “This is so simple. You just use your common knowledge and you don’t have to be an architect to build, because I think that the so-called ‘common knowledge’ and everyday experience are so lacking in academic studies.”

He has a point, and 90% of his projects are built. And as Obrist points out, he has built more in 9 years as an artist than many architects in a lifetime.

It was also quite inspiring reading the words ‘production of reality’. Ai says:

“Architecture is important for a time because it’s a physical example of who we are, of how we look at ourselves, of how we want to identify with out time, so it’s evidence of mankind at the time.”

Just theoretically talking about architecture but never exercising to build, is another kind of architecture. He says it’s important to study real locations, real problems, the undesirable conditions like low – cost architecture and all other practical aspects. But I guess you need to learn first before you can actually build..and I don’t really have the desire (nor the skill..) at the’s more enjoyable to look at other people’s work for now haha. But of course it would be awesome to have my own designs built. It’s every architects purpose and dream isn’t it?

Oh and there’s also this new project involving 100 architects to build a town in Inner Mongolia which sounds pretty exciting. They will all gather and live in the middle of the desert and build. Apparently it will be ready in 2 years time. Until then..

(note: all pictures scanned from the book)


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