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Ai Weiwei : According to What? at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., 2012.

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ai weiwei according to what at the hirshhorn museum and sculpture garden washington d c 2012
Ai Weiwei: According to What? at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., 2012.
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As you enter the exhibit at the Hirshhorn, you are immediately met with the sound of students’ names being read aloud in a recording broadcasted overhead. The names are also written in Chinese along the wall. Ai Weiwei has compiled a list of over 5,200 names of students killed in what he calls “tofu” or shoddily constructed schools during the 2008 earthquake. What message is he sending to the government about their response to this disaster?

backpacks names
Backpacksnames
  • This snake, made from backpacks, is at the entrance of the Hirshhorn exhibit. Each backpack represents a student who lost their life in the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. What message is Ai Weiwei conveying about the government’s handling of this disaster?
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Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995/2009; Colored Vases, 2007-2010.

What kind of message is Ai Weiwei sending about the role of ancient and modern culture in China by dropping and coloring traditional Chinese vases?

slide5

Map of China, 2008

  • Using traditional Chinese techniques, this sculpture is a map of China made of salvaged wood from dismantled Qing Dynasty. The work can be understood as a symbol of the unity of many diverse thoughts, ideas, and individuals found in China.
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He Xie, 2010

  • What message is Ai Weiwei sending about internet censorship?
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Surveillance Camera, 2010

How does this represent Ai Weiwei’s experiences with the Chinese government?

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Why did Ai Weiwei create such controversial pieces of art? Would his message be similar or different if it were projected through writings? Discuss.