|Fountain of Light, 2007. Steel and glass crystals on a wooden base|
Ai Weiwei (b. 1957) hasalternated in his practice between traditional physical artworks, conceptual projects, social activities, design and architecture. This has given his oeuvre the character of a compass that registers the currents of the age in art globally, and stimulates discussions of the role of art in his native China.
By using traditional Chinese materials and craftsmanship as well as modern industrial technology, the artist's works not only reflect and thematize the main currents of the twentieth century – its dreams and monuments; at the same time they attempt, like all living art, to leave a mark in the eternally flowing present.
The exhibition at Louisiana is showing three large, striking works: Forever, 2003, Fountain of Light, 2007 and Trees, 2009-2010, as well as a number of films.
Forever, the earliest work in the exhibition, has connections back to the artist’s fascination with the fatherfigure of conceptual art, Marcel Duchamp. 42 bicycles of the ‘Forever’ brand, the favourite means of transport of the Chinese for decades, have been ingeniously stacked in a cylindrical tower, a ‘cycle’ that goes nowhere, since either handlebars or pedals have been removed.
The work Fountain of Light is a shining seven-metre tall crystal tower, spectacularly placed in the Louisiana Sculpture Park. The work refers to the Russian architect Vladimir Tatlin’s (1885-1953) never-finished tower, created for the Third International in 1919 during the Russian Civil War.
Trees, four trees stretching from floor to ceiling in the museum’s Large Hall, consist of trunks and branches slotted together from individual pieces of Chinese camphorwood. Individually they stand there without growing, but in the assembled form they unfold impressively and transform dead matter into a metaphor of growth and life. Among the trees there are two smaller rock formations, Rocks, independent works in blue-painted porcelain, forming an overall work that challenges the viewer’s idea of the archetypally Chinese.
In addition the exhibition presents three of Ai Weiwei’s films in the documentary genre, showing how the artist works as an activist. In the films the artist raises a kind of monument to his own time by demonstrating the strength of the individual.