AI WEIWEI’S “S.A.C.R.E.D.” VENICE BIENNALE INSTALLATION CHRONICLES HIS RECENT IMPRISONMENT
Hot on the heels of last week’s release of Ai Weiwei’s heavy metal single and music video protesting his recent imprisonment by the Chinese government, the artist cranked up the heat on the ordeal with the debut of his controversial new show “S.A.C.R.E.D,” at the Venice Biennale yesterday. The installation is comprised of a series of dioramas encased in iron boxes depicting various scenes from Weiwei’s 81-day-long incarceration in 2011, the titles of which form the show’s titular acronym: (i) Supper, (ii) Accusers, (iii) Cleansing, (iv) Ritual, (v) Entropy, and (vi) Doubt. Each scene is viewed through a small aperture in the box’s exterior and chronicles, in miniature, a moment from the artist’s imprisonment during which he was physically surveilled in close proximity at all times by guards as he slept, bathed, used the bathroom, and ate, in an attempt by the Chinese government to intimidate and humiliate Weiwei for his criticism of the Communist party and its enforcement of social codes and restrictions on artistic expression. Amazingly, although the government still holds the artist’s passport and monitors his activities following the detainment, WeiWei created the dioramas with a team of 20—30 artists at his studios in Beijing and then smuggled the installation out of the country to the church of Sant’Antonin where it remains on display throughout the Biennal. Said Weiwei of his motivations for creating the risky artwork, “China is still in constant warfare, with destroying individuals’ nature, including people’s imaginations, curiosity, motivations, dreams. This state’s best minds have been wasted by this high ideological control, which is fake. Even the people who are trying to use it as a tool to maintain power or stability know that this is a completely fake condition.”
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