We were excited to learn that Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was released from detention on June 22, but his voice remains limited by the government as are the voices of millions artists worldwide. To call attention to repression of artistic freedom, the Walker is hosting an event on what would have marked the 100th day of Ai Weiwei’s detention.
THE EVENT: Inspired by one of Ai’s works, Fairytale: 1001 Qing Dynasty Wooden Chairs (a monumental installation made up of the titular antique chairs (see image) and was first presented at Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany in 2007) we invite you to bring a chair or chairs of any type to place in front of the Walker Art Center on Hennepin Terrace. The goal is to amass 1,001 by 6 p.m 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. We are also anticipating a special contribution to the collection.
WHEN: Tuesday, July 12th from 8am to 6pm
WHERE: Walker Art Center, Hennepin Ave Terrace (rain or shine)
HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE? It is as simple as bringing your chair. Starting at 8am you may place your chair (or chairs) as part of the collection of 1001 on the Hennepin Terrace on the East side of the building. Walker staff and volunteers will be present to greet and guide participants. We ask that you leave your chair till the culmination of the event with a moment of silence and brief remarks by Walker Director Olga Viso at 6 p.m. After which you are invited to (please) take/pickup your chair to take home. Pickup will continue till 8:30. Parking is available in the Walker ramp and on Vineland and Groveland Ave. Please do not pickup or drop off directly on Hennepin Ave.
OTHER PROGRAMS: The Walker will offer free gallery admission the entire day, and galleries will remain open until 6 p.m., an hour past its usual closing time.
We will also be screening a short clip from American documentary filmmaker Alison Klayman, who is in the midst of making a feature film Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry that follows the Chinese artist over a two-year period between 2008 and 2010. She is now updating the film with the recent events in his life. So far she has over 200 hours of video, shot while traveling to seven countries and 11 cities with Weiwei, interviewing his family, friends, colleagues and fellow artists. An 18 minute segment titled Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei was shown on PBS’s Frontline around the time of his arrest in Beijing on April 3, 2001. This short segment, which will play at the Walker Art Center on July 12, provides background on Ai Weiwei’s work as an artist and activist. He was released from jail on June 22.
About making the film Alison Klayman says, “I began filming Ai Weiwei in December 2008 and quickly got to know him through the stories he recounted about living in New York as a youth — something I could relate to as a young American who’s also now living in a foreign country. We talked about the evolution of his political consciousness, from his childhood in domestic exile with his father (renowned poet Ai Qing) to his decision to return to China in 1993 and remain a Beijing resident and Chinese citizen.”
The Walker plans to show the feature film when it is completed in spring of 2012.
ABOUT AI WEIWEI
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.”
“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.