Although authorities released artist Ai Weiwei on June 22, the Walker is moving forward with a planned event on July 12, which would have marked his 100th day of detention.
As a message on the Facebook page dedicated to freeing Ai Weiwei puts it, “He may be out of prison, but he is not free. We must remember those who lack the most basic human rights and raise our voices in support of freedom.”
The public is invited to take part in the July 12 event, inspired by one of Ai’s works, Fairytale: 1001 Qing Dynasty Wooden Chairs, as a way to acknowledge both Ai and other artists in China and around the world who work under oppressive conditions where artistic freedom is compromised.
Fairytale is a monumental installation made up of the titular antique chairs (see image below) and was first presented at Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany in 2007, as one part of an even larger project. In Minneapolis, people can bring a chair or chairs of any type to the Walker’s Open Field lawn on July 12. The goal is to amass 1,001 by 6 p.m (see details below).
“We believe that no artistic voice should ever be silenced in any society,” said Walker executive director Olga Viso. “We envision the chairs on the Open Field as a reminder of artists across the world—artists we may not even know—who have been lost and who face repression and censorship every day. Weiwei’s art and his recent detainment have brought this reality into disturbing and important focus.”
Ai was detained April 3 by Chinese police at the Beijing airport while en route to Hong Kong. Though Chinese authorities have alleged that Ai is guilty of tax evasion, many in the international community believe the arrest was the government’s response to his politically-charged work and social activism – just as they believe that his release was brought about, at least in part, by international pressure.
Named in 2011 as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, Ai is a sculptor, architect, installation artist, and filmmaker. He is perhaps best known in the U.S. for helping conceive the design of the “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics (he later wrote an op-ed for the Guardian UK titled “Why I’ll stay away from the opening ceremony of the Olympics”). His work has been exhibited in more than a dozen countries; in May, just weeks after his detention, his Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads was installed at New York’s Grand Army Plaza, one of the gateways to Central Park.
PARTICIPATE IN THE EVENT:
Visitors can drop off chairs throughout the day on July 12 and can witness the culmination of the event at 6 p.m., when Viso will make brief remarks. Visitors can collect their chairs between 6:15 and 8 p.m. and unclaimed chairs will be donated to charity. The Walker will offer free gallery admission for the entire day, and galleries will remain open until 6 p.m., an hour past its usual closing time.