Today the Royal Academy closes its doors to Ai Weiwei’s first British survey show. An artist arguably more famed for his political activism than his works alone, Weiwei's blockbuster show was bound to be met with mixed reviews. Like most art, particularly that which comes with a political message, his is not to everyones taste.
He is renowned for creating works which speak of exploitation and injustice, particularly pertaining to the Chinese Government. Whilst I appreciate the concepts behind his work, not all of it resonates with me and whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to say it myself, I can see why some critics label it nothing more than a spectacle. That said, his enormous ‘Straight’ installation certainly wowed.
It is the students that Weiwei speaks out for with ‘Straight’. The rods are arranged to resemble tectonic plates, whilst the names of 5,000 students who lost their lives in the disaster line the walls of the room. Here Weiwei makes an impactful point about the state’s responsibility in the obliteration of life, and brings the scale of the disaster home through the sheer size of his installation.
For me, it is here more so than any other of his works at the RA, that his point is made most poignantly; if you will excuse the pun, it is the most straight talking of his works. Ai Weiwei firmly believes in artists finding the language to deal with problems, and he especially feels a responsibility to let the public know about state injustices, despite the barriers faced in doing so. His damning exposure of poor building standards and the disastrous consequences is highly powerful, as both a political statement and as art, proving his mantra, ‘everything is politics, everything is art’, somewhat true.
Author: Sarah Moor