Nov 15, 2015

Ai Weiwei's Startling Ideas


The Helsinki Art Museum is showing an exhibition of Ai Weiwei's art until the end of February, and I checked it out on my trip to Helsinki. Ai Weiwei is a human rights activist, as you all probably know, and a lot of the pieces reflect that, or have ideas stemming from social injustice or tragedies in his native China, but I found a lot of these stunning from a purely visual standpoint. 

Weiwei uses a lot of reclaimed wood from demolished houses or temples. The tree above was built of dead trees from the mountain regions of China. It had a weird vibe to it, like the heart trees from Game of Thrones; it's beautiful, but somehow wrong or strange. Intimidating. 

This wasn't a temple, although it looks like one. It's an old house, painted white. Something skeletal about it, isn't there?


This one affected me the the most. Weiwei did the piece after a school collapsed due to shoddy building practices, killing lots of  children. These boxes have marble versions of the bent support beams inside, reminding us of the lives lost.


This piece consisted of beautiful antique tables and wooden beams salvaged from temples. The guide said that it might be a metaphor for the oppression of the state towards the people, represented by the humble tables. Without the tables, the whole thing would fall apart. This was an art critic's though on the installation, not Weiwei's own, so I don't know. I found it beautiful and strange, in any case. 

Regardless of the politics, I enjoyed the exhibition. There's a lovely geometry to Weiwei's pieces, something that just lets the mind rest. 

If you're traveling in Helsinki, it's definitely worth a look. 

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