Artlyst Podcast: Tim Marlow And Adrian Locke Discuss Ai Weiwei At The RA

Tim Marlow

Artlyst recently attended the press view of the Royal Academy of Arts’ landmark exhibition of the Honorary Royal Academician, Ai Weiwei. Where the chief curators of this outstanding show, Tim Marlow, and Adrian Locke were kind enough to give Artlyst – and a host of other journalists – a tour of Ai Weiwei’s impressive retrospective.

Image: Ai Weiwei 
Straight, 2008-2012. Photo P A Black © Artlyst 2015.

The exhibition includes significant works from 1993 onwards, the date that marks Ai Weiwei’s return to China following more than a decade living in New York. The artist works in a variety of different contexts, and scales, transforming materials and meaning as part of his practice. The curators took us on a detailed tour of the artist’s detailed survey, Sadly Ai was not present at the event, wishing his work to speak for itself.

Image: Curator Adrian Locke, 2015. Photo P A Black © Artlyst 2015.

One of the most poignant and effective works within the exhibition is the installation Straight, 2008-2012, a work which is part of the artist’s oeuvre relating to the Sichuan earthquake of 2008. The large installational work is created from ninety tonnes of bent and twisted rebar (the steel rods used in the construction of reinforced concrete buildings), collected by the artist and straightened by hand, as a sober monument to the victims of the earthquake, particularly the many school children.

Image: Ai Weiwei Straight, 2008-2012. Photo P A Black © Artlyst 2015.

We ended our tour in the final gallery with Ai’s least subtle yet highly effective work S.A.C.R.E.D, each a diorama of the artist’s padded cell in which he spent 81 days of political incarceration with two guards constantly no more than a metre away. The viewer sees Ai being interrogated, being watched as he goes to the toilet, or sleeping. The artist was in fact scrutinised on a daily basis, an act of dehumanisation and intimidation, a plight which is also discussed by the curators.

Image: Ai Weiwei 
S.A.C.R.E.D. 2011-2013. Photo P A Black © Artlyst 2015.

Audio: Tim Marlow, Adrian Locke, photos: P A Black © Artlyst 2015

Ai Weiwei – The Royal Academy of Arts – until 13 December 2015


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