The Hirshhorn Museum in conjunction with the the Newseum is presenting a project featuring images and quotes by the Chinese political, dissident artist Ai Weiwei. Mr Ai is an outspoken critic of the Chinese government’s democracy record whose advocacy of universal human rights complements the Newseum’s mission to champion freedom of speech and expression for all people.
The projected work will be seen from Pennsylvania Avenue and parts of the National Mall. The 74-foot-tall marble First Amendment tablet on the exterior of the Newseum will act as a screen for the installation. It features the trio of images from one of Ai’s most recognizable works, “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn,” 1995/2009, as well as quotes from the artist about freedom of expression and the importance of individual engagement and action within society. Projected over the 45 words of the First Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution, the powerful images and quotes draw attention to the important freedoms all Americans enjoy. The projection appears from Jan. 17 to 19, beginning at 7 p.m. each night. A celebrated artist recognised for his collaboration with architects Herzog & de Meuron on the design for the “Bird’s Nest” stadium at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and this years Serpentine Pavilion in London.
Ai has become known for his political activism, which he often accomplishes through his art and through his embrace of the Internet and social media. The work featured in the Newseum projection is a photographic triptych documenting Ai’s destruction of a piece of pottery that was deemed valuable because it was made roughly 2,000 years ago. The piece raises issues about cultural values as well as iconoclasm and artistic tradition. Some of his other controversial displays have explored the aftermath of the deadly 2008 Sichuan province earthquake and governmental censorship in China. “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” the first North American survey of the artist’s work will be on view at the Hirshhorn Museum through Feb. 24, 2013.
Mr Ai has stated; “The Hirshhorn exhibition in DC, is my first survey show in the United States. I lived in the US for twelve years from the 1980s to early 1990s, so the opportunity for a show here is very meaningful to me. The exhibition is based on a 2009 show at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum, but has been developed especially for the US and includes new works and fresh perspectives on the old. About a third of the works in this version of the show differ from those on view at the Mori. I’ve experienced dramatic changes in my living and working conditions over the past few years, and this exhibition has been an opportunity to re-examine past work and communicate with audiences from afar. I see it as a stream of activities rather than a fixed entity. It is part of a continual process in self-expression.
I have lived with political struggle since birth. As a poet, my father tried to act as an individual, but he was treated as an enemy of the state. My detention was an extreme condition for any human to endure. Many, including my family and the people who know me and care about the incident, were frustrated by the lack of an explanation or reason. Some of my life experiences have been tragic and painful, but I value them all. Going through these events allowed me to rethink my art and the activities necessary for an artist. I re-evaluated different forms of expression and how considerations of aesthetics should relate to morality and philosophy. These reflections give new strength to my work. I am able naturally to conceive of works that confront the accepted ethical or aesthetic views. I’ve always believed it is essential for contemporary artists to question established assumptions and challenge beliefs. This has never changed”.
Special Event: The Art of Ai Weiwei Projection (Jan. 17 – 19)
Date: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at Location: First Amendment tablet