Whilst in London, Ai Wei Wei was exhibiting at the Royal Academy of Arts. It is a spectacular show that gave me insight into his activism, the oppressive regime of the Chinese government and his creative process. My favourite room was Wei Wei's tribute to the school children killed during the earthquake in Sichuan - when substandard buildings collapsed. Wei Wei and friends tried to get a list of the dead from the Chinese governement without success - so they have collected as many as they could by talking to local people. These are represented in large scale printed lists pasted to the walls. On the floor is 150 tonnes of straightened reinforcer bars that were covertly bought by Wei Wei. These rusty bars from the condemned buildings, form ripples that look solid, but you have the ominous feeling that they would slip underfoot if you ventured to walk on top. It is a moving memorial.
There is a mix of playful and serious as you move through the rooms of this show. The gift shop is filled with Wei Weisms:
Art is not an end but a beginning.
I want people to see their own power.
A small act is worth a million thoughts.