Unique dataset using the names of victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China has been made available by the dissident Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. The work will be included in the art hackathon at Tate Modern which will launch the new platform for digital art at The Space this weekend.
The Hackathon, Hack The Space, will be held over 24 hours in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern from 6 pm on Saturday 13 June to 10 pm on Saturday 14 June 2014.
On the eve of the second anniversary of the earthquake, Ai Weiwei started a Twitter campaign inviting people to contribute voice recordings commemorating the students who lost their lives in the earthquake. One of them is Nian (“Remembrance”), a sound installation composed of the students’ names being recited 12,140 times by 3,444 individuals rallied from Ai’s Twitter campaign.
Night after night, Ai would bellow and record the names of the students; losing his voice time after time, he personally completed more than half the namelist before passing the baton to his team at FAKE Design.
In line with The Space’s vision in creating a platform that promotes freedom of expression and the combination of art and technology, Ai is sharing this data set with participants of the art hackathon. He would like to encourage the participants “to be ambitious, take risks and hopes that they will create a meaningful piece of digital art with the data set.”
May 12, 2008. It was a Monday afternoon, the beginning of the week for most people but the last day of school for the 5,196 students who perished in one of the largest earthquakes in human history. Almost 70,000 people were killed, over 18,000 went missing and millions were left homeless.
Following accusations from parents that shoddy construction caused the collapse of more than 7,000 classrooms and the Chinese government’s refusal to say how many students were killed in the earthquake, Ai Weiwei called on netizens to embark on an investigation to compile a namelist through his blog before it got shut down by the authorities. With a joint effort of researchers and volunteers, they tracked down and documented the names of more than 5,000 student victims, collecting information such as gender, date of birth, class, school, parents’ names and address.
Ai Weiwei has made a number of artworks referencing the Sichuan tragedy including Straight, using the long steel reinforcing bars retrieved from schools that collapsed during the earthquake. The work was shown at the 2013 Venice Biennale and at his first major museum solo show in the US, at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC.
Ai Weiwei, said: “Thanks to The Space for launching this beautiful project. I think this is great. It gives another opportunity and a platform for artists or somebody like me to work with. I believe many, many young people and students will love it. I also think many interesting works will come along with this project. Let’s make an effort: a world with more possibilities and new ways to communicate and express ourselves.”
Ruth Mackenzie, The Space’s Launch Director, said: “Ai Wei Wei is an inspiring example of an artist working to right wrongs, , through his own art and through his leadership. We are honoured that The Space can share this heartbreaking data, give a platform to this vital topic, support one the greatest international artists to express freely and share with artists and audiences round the world. The Space exists to support artists to express themselves freely.”
The Space is a free website for artists and audiences to create and explore exciting new art, commissioned by them and shared around the world. They commission new talent and great artists from all art forms, creative industries, technical and digital backgrounds, through regular Open Calls and partnerships. With around 50 new commissions a year, The Space is one of the most exciting places on the internet to find new art, free for audiences and artists to explore, express and enjoy. The Space never closes its doors to anybody. It is a constant growing art collection that changes with every visit. Every Friday lunchtime is the launch of a new collaboration. The Space is a free public space, a not-for-profit public service for artists and audiences around the world.