alcatraz and ai wei wei

i have lived in the bay area for over 20 years and i had never been to alcatraz.
the ai wei wei exhibit @large was going to close and so i felt like i should really really go. 

it is a hauntingly beautiful decaying place. the buildings are literally falling apart. the island feels like it's being decimated by sea air and taken over by birds. 

so the most impressive thing about the exhibit was it's scale, the use of materials and the fact that ai wei wei basically conducted the whole thing from overseas. he's not allowed to leave china. configuring something of this mass w/out actually being in the space is a pretty dramatic feat. 

the exhibit is full of nods to the idea of prison, political prisoners, freedom etc. TRACE is portraits of political prisoners or those in exile made out of legos. 

WITH WIND was a giant traditional kite that filled a room. 

for me it was actually more interesting watching people interact with the pieces than viewing them. 

particularly from above. this narrow corridor walkway spanned both pieces. you could look through broken glass to view the works. 

the island is pretty incredible. walking around there are a lot of interesting, old nooks and crannies. 

and honestly really strange color combinations. 

the prison itself is pretty darn scary. and cold. i felt like it was full of ghosts. so much history and terrible stuff.

there was also a bit on the audio tour about how there was a contingent of prisoners that started crocheting. i really really really want to see examples of what they made. i emailed the national park service to see if they have any documentation. i haven't heard anything back yet.

the most moving area - and the piece that i like the most of ai wei wei's was the hospital. 

in BLOSSOM the fixtures are filled with white porcelain flowers. white for peace? white for death? an offering to the prisoners? subtle and quite and in multitude the flowers were beautiful and also a bit daunting. they aren't soft. they aren't just pretty.....

i took some polaroids while i was there too. 
every time i ride a boat in the bay i'm amazed at where i live. 


Anonymous said…
Thanks for sharing these photos and some of your thoughts. I'd be interested in reading more about your reactions to/ideas about the exhibition.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for your reflective notes on the show. It was really moving, wasn't it? I took my two boys with me so wasn't really able to spend as much time with the work as I would have liked, but I'm glad to have exposed them to Ai Weiwei's work and they've really enjoyed the catalog at home.

I was too busy to write up notes myself but posted some images here:

Funny to think that we were there on the same day too!
when fatty and jane were in san francisco this past fall, they had planned a trip to alcatraz. jane is a huge ai wei wei fan and had no idea about that exhibit! imagine her delight! she still talks about it.

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