Following on from yesterday’s post about my most recent day trip to London, this one focuses on the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the RA.
It’s a great exhibition, and shows a wide range of Weiwei’s works, including his massive (and understandable) loathing of China.
The first thing you see, as you enter the RA’s courtyard, are the trees, made of assorted pieces of wood
Hidden in there as well is what looks like a knackered leather armchair. Only it turns out to be made from black marble…
In the exhibition itself, there are just so many different things. Tables that have been melded with timbers from 14th century temples, and/or bent to rest with legs against walls, epic cubes (including one that is a ton of compressed tea leaves), video installations, 3000 porcelain crabs, and many others.
The cubes are fantastic, and a particular favourite of mine was the wooden epic-scale puzzle box (that needs two people to get it to work) which was just beautiful, and so tactile…
There’s also a work called ‘Straight’, which is entirely constructed from steel reinforcing rods, and is a thing of beauty. (Although you do wonder just how long it took to get it all to work!)
On the walls in that room there are also two panels, listing every single identified body from the 2008 earthquake. Just the scale, the number of names, is gob-smacking, and upsetting in a strange way.
There’s also a lot of humour in the exhibition – surprisingly so, and in contradiction to what I’d imagined and understood of Weiwei’s work. My personal favourites of the entire exhibition are the two wallpaper designs. (Yes, wallpaper) The first is this, whole patterns created from a stencil of a man’s torso and arm, ending in a fist with a raised middle finger.
I think it’s the first ever wallpaper I’ve seen and gone “Yeah, I could live with that”. Although at nearly £500 per roll, I won’t be able to do so…
The second wallpaper, “Golden Age” is even more clever. Surveillance cameras and Twitter birds predominate
And then you look closer, and realise that in every Twitter bird, there’s Ai Weiwei’s face. And that’s really clever.
There are many, many other pieces – in a variety of sizes, materials, and styles. (I also loved the chandelier built from bicycle wheels) It’s an impressive body of work, and I suspect a number of pieces will stick with me for quite a while.
All told, I loved the exhibition. It’s so much better than I’d expected/assumed, and is so worth going to see.
Even better, the RA are actively encouraging people to take photos of the exhibits, to promote it themselves, and to touch most of the items. It’s very tactile, very open – and so nice to see that kind of understanding. (Although they did still tell off the German who slammed his camera and bag onto one of the bent tables, impervious to the fact it was an exhibit – but you can’t do much about idiots, in fairness)
The only (small) downside is that for the price you’re paying to see the exhibit, and the fact it’s only ticketed admission, it was still crowded. I would rather that there were fewer people allowed in at once, and thus those people can see the exhibits better, without being being constantly blocked, wandered into, and having others drifting into one’s eyeline. But then, I’m an antisocial git.
All told though, it’s great. I’m actually considering going again before it finishes…