Brainfarting on Ai Wei Wei’s Absent
Much has been written about the artist Ai Wei Wei and his work, the most recent of which being the combined retrospective and opus, Absence itself is the current status of my art, aka Absent(TFAM, November something to January 20 [this isn’t an actual review, so don’t get mad please]).
To call the exhibition a “retrospective” would be in violation of the themes and the ethos that Ai’s work has come to embody. Absence occupied four large rooms, six if you include the lobby which housed the infamous zodiac heads as well as a series of photographs of Ai’s evolution from a skinny New York transplant studying at the Parsons School of Design, to the notorious “dissenter” he is today. Housed in those rooms were pieces that allegedly used Q’ing and Han dynasty artifacts – a table with three legs, two of which were propped against the wall, temple pillars cutting cleanly through Q’ing furniture, stools bunched together like Grapes. In violating the privilege we grant upon historic artifacts, Absence raised the harder questions, specifically: Is an object’s history more important than what will become of it?
Is it from questions such as these that oppression and dissent arise? I only heard of Ai Wei Wei as a poster boy for the turbo-capitalist laments that, ironically, allowed Chinese art to rise to its current spot at the top of the Asian art market. But it’s in works such as Washed Out and Through that the sincerity (as trite as that may sound) and truth in his work can even resonate. It is possible to be in tandem with and against capitalism, and yet you can’t jump to these conclusions without first understanding how the art market even works. Throw in the confusion that accompanies contemporary art’s place in culture and the government frameworks that sustain it, and you have enough arguments to form the backbone of a Ph.D.
I won’t even pretend to know the story behind most of Ai’s art, and yet I can’t help but feel that it somehow links to my own narratives. And then you have to ask, isn’t the point of looking that you eventually see?
Absence was supposed to have closed yesterday, unless there was an extension. I was gonna write more about this, but work is getting in the way (work being an article about swimsuits. I don’t even own a swimsuit).
Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing with my life, then I remember that this is what records, like these, are for.