Art is visual. We, the viewing audience and the artists we choose to look at, are communicating to us through our eyes and their eyes! Whatever time we are awake and conscious each day, we are processing our perception of our world through our eyes first. But some artists, like the Chinese dissident artist Ai WeiWei, are beginning to understand how our time—the Covid-19 Pandemic era of 2020—has potentially caused all of us to possibly re-think our reliance on perception exclusively.
Ai WeiWei was driven out of his studio in China without any rule of law to protect his interests. With his passport finally, in hand, Ai WeiWei left his ‘motherland’ China and sought refuge in Berlin, Germany. Ai WeiWei recognized that Germany was not friendly to immigrants—especially to those who did not speak German fluently, so the dissident artist left Berlin for England. WeiWei quickly settled in Cambridge where he took over an under-utilized warehouse and transformed it into a large studio and residence for his work and his family.
Ai WeiWei also purchased display time on a large digital display screen in Piccadilly Circus, which is in central London and heavily trafficked with cars and pedestrians, for his latest project. He will project a series of images from his artworks and political films that will run for a month. The focus of his “images” will be the 2008 earthquake in the Sichuan province of China and the corrupt building practices that resulted in the deaths of many young students in badly constructed schools that collapsed on them during their school day. Ai WeiWei is using the large digital screen to get people’s attention during October. Still, he also realizes that size, scale, color, music, and movement may not be enough to register on the viewer’s conscious state. Ai WeiWei states: We are flooded with images now. There is so much information coming at people, many of them shocking images, that people don’t feel much emotion anymore…People have lost their sensitivity and their aesthetic judgment, and so we will not learn anything meaningful from this pandemic, which is pretty sad.” (Vanessa Thorpe, Ai WeiWei on China, free speech—and a message for London, The Guardian, 4 October 2020)
What are your thoughts on dissident artist Ai WeiWei and his message for London—and the whole world in essence?