AI WEIWEI was born in 1957 in Beijing, China, where he now lives and works. In 1978 he enrolled at the Beijing Film Academy and was the co-founder of the avant-garde art group The Stars. From 1981-1993 he lived in the US, mainly New York, and returned to Bejing in 1993. In 1997 he became the co-founder and Artistic Director of China Art Archives & Warehouse (CAAW), Beijing.
In 1999 Ai Weiwei moved to Chaochangdi, northeast of Beijing and built the studio house, his first architectural project. In 2003 he founded the architecture studio FAKE Design in Beijing. From 2003-2008 he was commissioned to design the Beijing’s 2008 Olympic Stadium together with Herzog & de Meuron. In 2008 Ai Weiwei received the Chinese Contemporary Art Award and in 2010 the Honorary Doctorate Degree of the Faculty of Politics and Social Science of the University of Gent, Belgium.
2010 Digital Activism in China: A discussion with Jack Dorsey (co-founder of Twitter) and Richard MacManus, The Paley Media Center, New York, US; 2008 Citizen Investigation project, researching information about the students that died in the Earthquake in Sichuan on May 12, 2008; 2007 Documenta 12, Kassel, Germany. For the project “Fairytale” he invited 1001 Chinese citizens to Kassel.
2010 The Unilever Series: Ai Weiwei, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London, UK; Regionale 10, Liezen, Austria; Radical Conceptual, Museum of Modern Art, Frankfurt am Main, Germany; Contemplating the Void, Guggenheim Museum, New York, US; Ai Weiwei, Galerie Urs Meile, Lucerne, Switzerland; Dropping the Urn, ceramics 5000 BCE – 2010 CE, Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, USA; Ai Weiwei, Haines Gallery, San Francisco, US; 2009 With Milk_find something everybody can use, Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, Barcelona, Spain; So sorry, Haus der Kunst Munich, Germany; According to What?, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan; Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs 1983-1993, Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing, China; The Making of Art, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany; 2008 Out there: Architecture Beyond Building, 11th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice, Italy; Ai Weiwei, Hyundai Gallery, Seoul, Korea; Illumination, Mary Boone Gallery, New York, US; Go China! Ai Weiwei, Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands; 2007 Documenta 12, Kassel, Germany; China Welcomes you... Desires, Struggles, New Identities, Kunsthaus Graz, Austria; Project We are the future, 2nd Moskow Biennial of Contemporary Art; 2006 China now. Faszination einer Weltveränderung, Sammlung Essl, Klosterneuburg/Vienna, Austria.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is one of the most diverse artists of our days. His fields of interest include architecture, design, art, curatorial work, writing, publishing and many more. The gallery has asked him to create some documentary photo and video works which should highlight the rapid changes taking place in China, based on his personal observations and his experience with the Chinese government. Both in public and in his blogs (which are often blocked by Chinese authorities) Ai Weiwei continuously calls for freedom of the press and protection of Human Rights; values he deems indispensable in order to form a proper civil society, i.e. a society based on democratic principles. In order to achieve this, however, people would first have to take responsibility for their actions - something that in China still seems a million years away due to the mighty tradition of the influence of the teachings of Confucius. The current Chinese government under Hu Jintao even uses the term "harmony" as an ideological motif and instrument of control.
For centuries, the Chinese have been used to walking many different paths (tao) without passing a judgement or choosing an option. Regarding his role as an artist, Ai Weiwei's self-defined responsibility lies in searching and revealing grievances and in informing the public about them.
When in 2008 thousands of school children died in an earthquake in the Chinese province of Sichuan, the Chinese government tried to cover up the circumstances leading to the collapsing of the schools (but not of the government and administration buildings). Ai Weiwei’s major work REMEMBERING, consisting of 9,000 children rucksacks attached to the façade of Haus der Kunst in Munich, formed the Chinese sentence a mother uttered when seeing the body of her dead child: "She happily lived on this planet for seven years". After Ai Weiwei had issued a public appeal to investigate in this matter, he and some of his voluntary helpers were repeatedly threatened and attacked. The large sized photos in the exhibition and one of the films show the extent of these aggressive action.
(See also: Ai Weiwei So Sorry with texts by Chris Dercon, Julienne Lorz, Mark Siemons. Haus der Kunst Munich, 2009.)
The films Chang’an Boulevard and Beijing:The Second Ring reflect the urban condition and changes at the time (2004 and 2005) in Beijing. Beijing, the capital of China for over 600 years, has a prime architectural orientation and order to its urban fabric. The films show the hopeless logic of the city structure, where change is beyond any control and non-negotiable, but they also reveal Beijing as an organic whole, capturing the rhythms of the city, revealing pieces of a multi-layered urban collage.
The videos are used as a monitor, objectively recorded in a minimal way, focusing on the process of pure observation and the nature of time.
LAO MA TI HUA (Disturbing the Peace) is a documentary of an incident during Tan Zuoren’s trial in August 2009. Ai Weiwei intended to witness at the trial of this Civil Rights advocate, when on August 12 the police broke into Weiwei’s hotel room. During this raid the artist was hit heavily on the head by police officers and suffered a traumatic brain injury, which stopped him from appearing in court.
The photographs in the exhibition were taken around Ai Weiwei’s studio, reflecting the conditions of the artist’s daily life. Undercover police officers constantly monitor his every step - acts which represent a widespread practice of surveillance in this fast and modern society of China.