Today, I ventured out to Alcatraz, located in the San Francisco Bay, for the first time in my life and the reason was Ai Weiwei, a political activist and vocal critic of the Chinese government. Consisting of seven site-specific installations, @large was created exclusively for Alcatraz and poignantly raises questions about human rights, freedom of expression and liberty. By addressing the fate of people around the world, who have been deprived of their individual rights for something they believe in, this exhibit touches you at the core.
Greeting visitors is With Wind, a breath-taking dragon kite meandering through the entire first exhibition hall showing off not only its colorful coat but also many quotes by activists, who have been imprisoned. Trace consisting of 176 portraits entirely made of Lego is striking and especially touching through the corresponding stories each of them has to tell. Featuring a magnificent larger than life bird's wing, Refraction can only be viewed through cracked and rusty windows and left me wanting more. I thought it added a potent edge to the feeling of restriction. Stay Tuned, a sound installation occupying a series of cell, invites visitors to sit and listen to music, poetry and spoken words of activists, who have been detained. Again, I thought it was heartrending just as Illumination, which occupies the former hospital and pays respect to people who have resisted cultural oppression. @large is as stunning as it is poignant. An absolutely must-see. I left very inspired however also with a heavy heart.
Through April 26, 2015.
To learn more visit Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz.
Or listen to How Alcatraz Became a Canvas for Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei: Forum Archive 10/22/14.
Have passport, will travel: where will Ai Weiwei go?