‘Ai Weiwei: According to What?’ comes to Brooklyn Museum

Ai Weiwei Brooklyn Museum
Ai Weiwei’s “Colored Vases” (2007-2010) shows artifacts destroyed in the name of political activism.
Credit: Provided

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has perfected the craft of activist art. Featuring over 40 works spanning 20 years, “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” explores topics of culture, history, politics and tradition, showcasing the artist’s interdisciplinary career.

“Everything is art, everything is politics,” stated Weiwei. Growing up during the Cultural Revolution (1966-75), the protests that defined an age of relentless reform took shape in his aesthetic protest-art. Weiwei’s installations and surveillance video and photography are intertwined with the global political landscape. In the guise of minimalist art, Weiwei appropriates China’s historical past — and the events of this communist country’s present — to create large installations that bring attention to China’s future.

Weiwei continually appropriates China’s history in his work. In a series of pieces created out of wood, Weiwei utilizes woodworking techniques of the Han Dynasty, when artisans fashioned furniture without the use of screws. The results are masterful puzzles where wood fits together through patience rather than engineering. In Moon Chest (2008), seven chests built from huali —the wood of the Chinese quince tree — are placed in a row. Each chest has four circular openings, transforming them from furniture into art as viewers are invited to stare through the circles fashioned after a waning moon.

Notable pieces that also involve preserving the past through provocative actions are Colored Vases (2007-10) and Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995). Each piece involves defaming Han dynasty artifacts through industrial paint or literal destruction. His peaceful yet political demonstrations do not come without repercussions: In 2011 he was arrested for alleged economic crimes. Luckily, his time behind bars will forever be treasured in his Selfie (2011), which he took in police elevators en route to his 81-day detention. “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” recognizes socially engaged art as a peaceful way to raise awareness about universal topics of human rights and cultural reform.

If you go

‘Ai Weiwei: According to What?’
Through Aug. 10
Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Pkwy.
Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.


Bloomberg: Going green will grant you longer life…

Former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg tells Metro that cities are where fighting global warming can make a difference, and increase people’s lifespan.


Ban Ki Moon: "Climate change is an issue…

My message to you is: make your voice heard and your actions count. Change is in the air. Solutions exist. The race is on. It’s time to lead.


Earth Day New York food toolkits to help…

Hundreds of classrooms across New York City already have indoor container gardens that allow students to grow food right where they learn. But Earth Day…


NYPD announces street closures for United Nations General…

The United Nations representatives are in town, and multiple city streets will be closed to traffic through Saturday, Sept. 26. The NYPD is urging those…


10 Facts you won’t learn about Frankie Grande…

Frankie Grande is the worst and/or the best. Whether or not you're a fan, you'll want to know these facts about the polarizing player from "Big Brother 16."


Antoine Fuqua can kill someone with just a…

It's amazing what you can get done with the right tools. In designing the climactic battle in "the Equalizer," in which Denzel Washington's retired special…


Guess Ben Kingsley's worst filmmaking experience

Here's a fun game: Sir Ben Kingsley has made a lot of films since "Gandhi" in 1982, but at least one of them was a…


Does Lena Dunham have any secrets left?

Get a sneak peek at her new book to determine if it’s worth the read.


Eli Manning finally feeling good in West Coast…

The Giants have very little time before their next game, but they still took a moment to relish the team’s biggest offensive outburst since Week 1 of 2013.


College football top 25 poll: Oregon, Alabama close…

College football top 25 poll: Oregon, Alabama close in on FSU


Jay Cutler takes Marc Trestman's coaching to heart

While Jay Cutler turned to an autobiography on the man who would be his head coach, Trestman had personal experience with the player.


Jets vs. Bears: 3 things to watch

Jets fans likely chalked up Monday's matchup with the Bears as a loss when the NFL schedule came out. But given their team's play so…


Lacking new ideas, Apple Watch disappoints health experts

Technology pundits were quick to predict the demise of most fitness wristbands and smartwatches when the Apple Watch was announced. But health care professionals and…


Sarah Doukas on social media, models and diversity

The maker of Kate Moss tells Metro how social media can drive the diversity change in the fashion industry.


Here are this year's most creative college application…

The college application essay is one of the only times during the admissions process where a student can showcase his or her personality. While many…


Nicola Formichetti on Diesel, the digital revolution and…

The artistic director of fashion label Diesel – and stylist for Lady Gaga – is creating human connection through social media.