Lucerne: Ai Weiwei: “Rebar – Lucerne” at Galerie Urs Meile Through January 12th, 2013

January 9th, 2013

Ai Weiwei, Rebars-Lucerne (Installation View) via Galerie Urs Meile

Blurring the line between social, political and artistic space, the work of dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei uses his practice to give voice to marginalized facets of the Chinese cultural and political landscape.  His is an art of awareness, presenting the political-social climate of China in his own terms, merging the presentation of his art with that of his own experience.

Ai Weiwei, Rebar 21 (2008-2012) Via Galerie Urs Meile

Such is the case with his current installation, Rebars-Lucerne at Urs Meile Gallery in Switzerland.  Revisiting the catastrophic earthquake that destroyed the Sichuan province in Central China, Ai illuminates the official government line on the disaster, and its dissonance with the event itself.

Ai Weiwei, Rebars-Lucerne (Installation View) Via Galerie Urs Meile

During the massive earthquake, several schools in Sichuan collapsed, illustrating the buildings’ substandard construction, and underlining administrative corruption in the region.  Thousands of children died instantly, and Ai was actively involved in the process of identifying these children, bringing a degree of reprehension against the government, and drawing official censorship.

Ai Weiwei, Rebars-Lucerne (Installation View) Via Galerie Urs Meile

At Rebar-Lucerne, these names are given their due course, listed over a video loop in one room, and also showcased on a laptop screen placed on a Chinese student’s desk.  Presented together, the images and sculpture create a harsh critique, underlining the loss of life against the backdrop of one of China’s chief exports: consumer electronics.

Ai Weiwei, Rebars-Lucerne (Installation View) Via Galerie Urs Meile

The show also includes a selection of reinforcement bars from the schools in question, each accompanied by two man-made replicas.  Twisted and bent in horrifying configurations, they highlight the sub-par construction of the school, and the savage mockery of their construction.

Unwilling to look away from the event, Rebars-Lucerne allows a stark re-evaluation of the Sichuan disaster, and a secondary history told outside the officially condoned version of the events.  Through this presentation, Ai Weiwei subverts the active process of state-sponsored forgetting, and creates a new dialogue with the event.

Ai Weiwei, Rebar 32 (2008-2012) Via Galerie Urs Meile

Ai Weiwei, Rebars-Lucerne (Installation View) Via Galerie Urs Meile

Rebars-Lucerne is on view until January 12th.

Ai Weiwei, Rebars-Lucerne (Installation View) Via Galerie Urs Meile

—D. Creahan

Suggested Links:

Ai WeiWei Via Galerie Urs Meile
Galerie Urs Meile