29 June 2023

Making Sense of Ai Weiwei at The Design Museum – wonderfully evocative

I went to see this show on a whim, it was a sort of an unplanned visit being as the Design Museum was a convenient place to meet my friend. Immediately as we entered the space we said "wow!" out loud. Both of us are into collections, patterns, history references, etc, and this show brings together all of that and more.

Ai Weiwei has been through so much in his life and this show brings together much of his hard fought experiences, making beautiful arrangements out of thought-provoking remnants and broken parts, and new pieces inspired by his time in incarceration. 

We were especially intrigued as to how the many thousands of elements were placed. For instance, if this show moves to another location, will the many individual fragments be arranged in exactly in the same configuration?  To this end, I took photos of some of the corners of the displays so that we might be able to compare them with any future shows. 

The idea of exact replication would be a major undertaking, but we think it might be the case, especially in the case of the arrangement of little porcelain balls which clearly has specific areas of different coloured clay within the smaller size, something we decided was intentional. There's also a pattern within the layout, like arrangements of fans. 

Lego bricks also feature, recreating Monet's Water Lilies with the addition of portal to a hidden bunker. It's a mesmerising and thought-provoking show in many ways. 

The show is on until 30th July – more info here – though I always say, don't look at pics of things before you go to see things – just get a hint of it and get the 'hit' of the new when you get there, just as we did. 

In amongst AW's political, historical, topographical and social observations, I learned that there are two types of woodworking in China – furniture making and house building are called 'small carpentry' and 'large carpentry'. How nice. Many of the arrangements at the show gave me the urge to get creative with a needle and thread or to rearrange my own collections, especially my clay pipe fragments, something I have been meaning to return to as an art project rather than just a jewellery outlet.

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Thanks, Jane