For artists and intellectuals today, what is most needed is to be clear about social responsibility…. You don’t have to march on Tiananmen, but you have to be clear-minded, to find your own way of expression…. The bottom line is that you are an individual person; while you are here you’d better be yourself and speak what you think is right. In China we have a saying that goes: You’re in a valley and overhead between the cliffs you see a white horse jump over the gap. That’s life. It could be a few concepts or moments in which you live that have no meaning to others.
Conceptual artist, publisher and architect Ai Weiwei returned to his native Beijing in 1993, where he set upon creating the daring, surrealist sculptures and performances documented here. From his smashing of a Han dynasty urn to his wonky deconstructions of Qing dynasty tables, Weiwei ruptures notions of historicity and respect. And then there’s his 6-meter-high “Chandelier” and his series of snapshots of his own hand (presumably) giving the finger to a world of monuments, from Tiananmen Square to the Eiffel Tower, from the White House to the Reichstag.