Ai Weiwei’s Auras (Part 2)


There were weeks where I felt irrationally high nerves due to uncertainties, such as when this “arrival of my OSAP” business would happen to occur. However, I am quite thankful to note that, to relieve this stress, I eventually headed over to the AGO a couple of times to see Ai Weiwei’s “According to What.”

All I can say is “whoa,” in utter amazement.

There are many topics that come racing into my mind when reflecting on the power of Weiwei’s confrontation to the gallery viewers in his images and texts, despite his physical absence from being under house arrest in China.

It is quite interesting for the viewer to happenstance on this following quote, which comes shortly before the “climax” of this exhibition experience, the moment when Weiwei’s works completely take you into an alternate world.

This particular quote of Weiwei states, “This so-called contemporary art is not a form, but a philosophy of society.”

Weiwei gives gallery viewers an experience that truly embodies the way that all of us here in the 21st century today embody social media in our lives.

The very first set of images, presented through television screens while one walks into the exhibition, personally remind me of Facebook albums, or the images that one would post on Twitter and Instagram. These images captured practically everything, from animals and people, to galleries and food. In addition, there were several humourous pictures, especially one where Weiwei managed to make a “self-portrait.”

One continues to walk into the exhibition, sees a projector screen showing excerpts of Alison Klaymans’ documentary film, Never Sorry, and then the “philosophy of society” quote.

Then, I walk into the room, and I see over dozens of viewers taking pictures on their cell phones of Weiwei’s conceptual art pieces, ranging from wooden sculptures to “ready-made art,” and photographs of Weiwei either giving the middle finger to prestigious landmarks, or dropping an ancient Han dynasty urn. Believe it or not, this is to be expected.

The viewer becomes the spectacle in addition to the artwork itself. Images of his exhibition now flock social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram possess hundreds of the similar images from prior visitors who wanted to say that they were a part of Weiwei’s Auras.

I felt that the most unique component of seeing Weiwei’s exhibition was actually being able to witness the people’s reactions to Weiwei’s thought-provoking pieces. In this post-modern, alienated world, Weiwei proves to all of us that social media governs our lives. It could actually be used for adequate social change.

However, there is sadness to be felt when seeing large walls filled with the names of those who perished, and were unaccounted for, in the 2008 earthquake in China’s Sichuan province.

There is no irony or hiding the fact that Weiwei creates dynamically conceptual, ready-made art, in addition to using the names of those who perished, as deep metaphors for the fundamental problems of the corrupt Chinese state.

Weiwei once said, “Respect life, never forget.” It is nice to see that with the social media we all utilize, there is still a way for technology to still possess characteristics of humanity and to be tools for collective empathy.

In order to feel that I have gotten to fully appreciate and indulge in the truest thoughtfulness of Weiwei’s artistic practice, I need to go again. What a unique sensation to be felt at this time of our lives, here in 2013.

One question that I would pose to you would be, “Do you feel that Ai Weiwei is present or absent in the exhibition? What would matter more?”

Even as I am getting comfortable and happy with Weiwei’s Auras, I see that “David Bowie Is” has just opened in the upstairs of the AGO! I hope to write about the spiffiness of Bowie sometime soon!

Back to Toronto I go.