Dysneytopia and/or Ai WeiWei on Planet Alcatraz


( vj podinski mix of an Ai WeiWei portrait * )

-work-in-progress -


Coincidentally the same week we went to go see the Ai WeiWei exhibition on Alcatraz, we got a couple emails about a razor sharp talk at #31c3 – The 31st Chaos Communications Congress – by Hans de Zwart, a civil rights activist with @bitsoffreedom.  A presentation about living under permanent surveillance, which is not just the state of the famed Beijing artist embattled with the Chinese govt., but a glimpse of all our technopolized futures. It’s now been converted into an article for The Medium -  a site started by a co-founder of Twitter, and in order to comment there one needs to log in via Twitter or Facebook. Itself, a kind of escalation of data-mining opportunities meets journalism.

In any case ( w/o logging in), you’ll still be able to read about Zwart’s revealing work on some disturbing Dysneytopian trends already in mass production.

( We’ll also try to find the archive lecture link from #31c3 )

Ai WeiWei on Planet Alcatraz

Until the Alcatraz exhibition, the XLterrestrials were a little ambivalent about Ai WeiWei, who seemed highly influenced by his years in New York and picking up on strategies of the art world game played by the likes of Warhol, (an artist we consider to be one of the most banal in the history of modern art & product ).

A strong desire for freedom of expression, personal identity and individualism in the context of celebrity/spectacle platforms and the gallery bubbles, far removed from the daily life and struggles of everyday citizens and oppressive systems and situations. And this NYC period appears to be for him the place of learning the art market navigations, which helped eventually catapult him into a massive museum star commodity. ( we’d like to examine how that actually transpired, cause that rise does not seem to be ‘an organic process’. the sausage making of stars ? )

[ And here is a theme within the theme, that we'd like to elaborate on later:  the Spectacle culture is a kind of collapsing remnant of the late 20th western century, and is not in synch with the needs of a 21st century global society, which is perhaps requiring a stronger community commitment, communal interactions and taking on collective responsibilities. Is there something in eastern cultures which already embodies this (?), but which is also being diffused and disrupted by life ruled by the markets and corporate culture ?  Of course there is some nasty state censorship and the  authoritarian operating systems we see entrenched in so many nations, but it would also be interesting to examine if Ai WeiWei is perhaps now, in some sense, colliding with eastern traditions b/c of his bringing an artistic ideology and enterprises of western origin. It is as if Ai WeiWei has returned to China to inject western values, and a system there is attempting to reject them. And there appears to be an aspect that he is promoted so heavily in the west, as to play the thorn in China's governing structures. ]

For us, no longer idolizing the self-absorbed modern art trajectories, this was some of our first impressions of Ai Weiwei.

But now examining his evolution as an artist, it was his first internet activity back in China, beginning in 2005, that his creativity took on a fight for truth, and a fight for the people, and he began to explore more dedicated maneuvers w/ a cultural sword. It was his speaking out about the Sichuan earthquake (corruption/scandals) and the various  damaging effects on citizens’ lives leading up to the Beijing Olympic Games, when things got interesting ! And also the point at which he courageously and defiantly ventured into some very dangerous waters !

Was it because of his struggles within China and its tightly-managed culture , that his content took a sudden turn towards powerful actions of resistance, solidarity, and praxis ? We still haven’t researched this enough to know if this was indeed a major shift, a re-direction of his work, and are still not able to know all that triggered this far more serious output. But definitely the experiences at Alcatraz have given us the possibility to see him in a much more tactical and subversive light !


Art In Solidarity

“Speaking up for courageous political prisoners around the world is one of the most beautiful things you can make for political art… thx Ai Wei Wei ! … we were inspired 2day !” XLterrestrials

Ai Weiwei: @Large is at Alcatraz, San Francisco through April 26, 2015

“@Large” has been written about in many media outlets, so we won’t spend alot of time on that, but we would like to include here  THE LIST of political prisoners which have been included in the Trace section – as Lego portraits - One portion of the Alcatraz installations housed in 4 different buildings on the island.

Each story is astounding, and if you visit the exhibition, one touching and tactical element is to invite the attendees into writing prison letters/postcards. Beautifully engaging, and very meaningful to the lives of the incarcerated, should those addresses indeed be reached. No doubt, not all of the cards will reach their destination.

‘Infiltrating” one of San Francisco’s major tourist attractions, and a former prison which becomes mostly a monument to law and order, discipline and punishment, and the power of the state, he introduces this kind of crowd to the plight of mostly unknown and unseen political prisoners. Quite a magical feat to inspire the deviant artist in all of us ! A most compelling art hack !

to be cont.


* ai-weiwei-in-his-beijing-studio-by-jamie-hawkesworth

more fotos of the @large exhibition coming soon !

Leave a Reply