Inspiration Spawned by a Happenstance Moment: Ai Weiwei’s Auras (Part 1)


I sit here, contemplating on what to write for this (at the moment, very abstract) column. Upon reflecting and researching to see what is currently on display at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario, the name Ai Weiwei has caught my attention.

This internationally renowned Chinese contemporary dissident artist is currently being featured in his retrospective According to What?, which the AGO website is presenting as a must-see blockbuster exhibition.

It is quite fitting that I recently watched a pair of television shows in which Weiwei was interviewed by CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi for both Q and The National, which aired this past week. Ghomeshi took the opportunity to present how Weiwei is “The Absent Artist”, solely centered on how his current house arrest not only prevents him from leaving China, but also from  attending his own exhibition at the AGO.

Many artists whose exhibitions I’ve seen at the gallery, for example Frida Kahlo, Marc Chagall, Emily Carr, etc. have passed away. It is quite disheartening to see how a strong human being such as Ai Weiwei has such a sad story. This is a man of sincere courage, fortitude, and determination fights for truth and transparency, but he is unfortunately “vilified” and “kept prisoner” by his own country.

As many of us are hearing now through “word of mouth” and social media, Weiwei’s artwork, which possesses strong critiques and criticisms of the Chinese government’s totalitarianism and corruption, is providing much international support for his activist endeavours, despite the unfortunate cost to his freedom.

According to What? delves into many of themes, which additionally gets reflected in Alison Klayman’s documentary film Never Sorry, which is  accessible through Canadian Netflix. For myself personally, the film makes me wish that I could magically go back in time three years to see the Sunflower Seeds display at London, England’s Tate Modern!

What an amazing man.

I must confess that I wish that I could have received my OSAP money this weekend so I could give a review/reflection of the actual retrospective itself. On the other hand, I look forward to concluding the second part to “Ai Weiwei’s Auras” sometime within the next few weeks. Stay tuned!