- Of course, this experience of being a painting makes me think of Linda Pastan’s incredible “Ethics.” http://shenandoahliterary.org/blog/2011/09/linda-pastan-ethics/ I’m not suggesting you should elect the same question (a Rembrandt painting/or an old woman who hadn’t many/ years left anyhow?) for your writing. Maybe you ought to increase the stakes?
According to Bertolt Brecht, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.”
We could not know we were headed into Ai Weiwei’s brain from the lifeboats hanging from the Palazzo Strozzi. We knew, of course, the rubber boats represented the plight of refugees. We knew of Ai Weiwei’s reputation as a dissident, as a prisoner, as a spokesperson for justice and against corruption and censorship.
However, we were overcome with his grief, rage, and agitation as we were delivered into his hippocampus. We recognized its horseshoe shape and how the monumental installations we encountered there helped him–and us–to process history and emotion.
In the second piece, Snake Bag, he sewed 360 backpacks to represent 360 children killed at a school when an earthquake in China’s Sichuan province killed approximately 90,000 people; as visible in the companion video that shows the recovery of the inadequate rebar, the massive destruction was due to the government cutting corners on construction.
In another series, we see Ai Weiwei’s left middle finger extended to the White House, the Eiffel Tower, Hong Kong, Tiananmen Square, and the Mona Lisa, among others; these pieces are title A Study in Perspective. His perspective is clear. He even has wallpaper that also has patterns of middle fingers.
An ivory porcelain plot of flowers is centered in the middle of one of the rooms. These flowers represent his rebellion against censorship, surveillance, and control. He further addresses restrictions he faced by recreating the surveillance cameras (in marble), handcuffs (in wood), and hangers (from his imprisonment, in wood).
Film, selfies, pamphlets, 32 Qing Dynasty stools assembled into a circle, 3200 porcelain crabs, Lego portraits of Dante Alighieri and Galileo Galilei and three self-portraits (also in Legos) further intensify the multimedia experience.
I am inspired by this tour of Ai Weiwei’s brain and heart. I am reminded that, especially in the face of oppression and restriction, we must use all of the resources we have at hand to fight for what is right. Art can be mirror, hammer, souvenir, warning, flare, lighthouse, tank, lifeboat…
The Mask of Evil
by Bertolt Brecht
On my wall hangs a Japanese carving,
The mask of an evil demon, decorated with gold lacquer.
Sympathetically I observe
The swollen veins of the forehead, indicating
What a strain it is to be evil.
- Ai Weiwei’s installations and representations function as Brecht’s “mask of evil.” What does your character/speaker have or make to remind her of “what a strain it is to be evil?”
It is week ten of the semester, and we are on the brink of spring. This is the point in the term where the speed picks up, and what felt like racewalking suddenly turns into a jog to Spring Break and then a frantic sprint to the end.
This weekend I am scanning photos of Christmas as though the length of time is as vast as the distance from here to Dublin. I am grateful for having timed my visit to encounter a castle elaborately decorated for Christmas, for the generous sun shining on the labyrinth and gardens, for the the luxury of history and the venue of a gallery to learn more of Ireland’s bombings and terrorism. I am grateful for the joy and safety I enjoy even at the end of a long winter.
Indeed it has been a long winter full of hard lessons and interesting work. I just have to pause to remember where I am going and where I have been. Speaking of week ten, the creative writing students are blogging.
Daily Bread 400: https://dailybread400.wordpress.com/
Blissful Binge: https://blissfulbinge.wordpress.com/
Passions of 8: https://passionsof8.wordpress.com/
World of Actions & Reactions: https://creativeblogforclass.wordpress.com/
All Things Dreamy: https://allthingsdreamyblog.wordpress.com/
Please follow them, like them, and tell your friends about these diligent and creative writers.
Looking for writing inspiration, take a look at: http://awesomewritingprompts.tumblr.com/