The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is internationally renowned both as a maker of potent and provocative art and as a passionate advocate for human rights and freedom of expression. His art and ideas find a compelling new context in this exhibition of works created specifically for Alcatraz — a 19th-century military fortress, a notorious federal penitentiary, a site of Native American heritage and protest, and now one of America’s most visited national parks.
Chinese authorities confiscated Ai’s passport three years ago and have refused to return it, barring him from traveling abroad. Ai has been forced to develop the Alcatraz works in his Beijing studio and will have to remotely manage the installation of the show, whose themes deal with incarceration, freedom of expression and activism.
The artist has not shared specifics of the show yet. Weiwei would say only that it’s “a heavy topic” but that it also will have a “light touch” that will “make people remember.”
Lots of speculation!
Remember the Venice Biennale of art where viewers stepped on a block and, peering through a small slit on top of the box, they saw lifelike dioramas of Ai Weiwei as a political prisoner inside a padded prison cell, always under double guard?
Memorable installations have included the “The Unilever Series”:
Cheryl Haines, FOR-SITE Foundation founding executive director, is organizing the exhibition @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz.