There are many reasons to visit the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei’s exhibition, “translocation – transformation” currently housed in the 21er Haus. Here’s 8 of them.
1. Approximately 2.5 tons of teapot spouts from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) – creating an impressive bones-like effect – make up the weirdest carpet you’ll ever see in your life.
2. Big-ass 500 kilogram bronze animal heads, representing the Chinese zodiac, are propped up on 3-meter-high pedestals and encircle the pond out the front of the Belvedere building. It’s a stunning installation. These heads are modelled like those of the water clock fountain at the imperial summer palace at Yuanming Yuan in Beijing, looted by French and British troops in 1860.
It’s the year of the monkey, so be sure to grab a selfie pic with the massive bronze monkey head!
3. Three mythological creatures, made by hand in the style of traditional Chinese kites (thin bamboo frames covered with white silk), float above the Belvedere’s staircase.
4. Two big houses have been made out of countless pressed tea leaves. The tea’s actually of great quality, and would make a good cuppa.
5. 1,005 used life vests are floating in the shape of lotus blossoms in the huge pond in front of Belvedere. The vests make 201 orange, blue and red flowers, each a ring composed of 5 life vests. Together, the rings form a gigantic F (hence the name of the installation: F Lotus).
Does this stand for Fake, the artist’s studio name? Or does it stand for ‘freedom’ for all the refugees, many of whom have required a life vest to reach the safety of Europe’s shores? Or is it a f*** you aimed at all of the short-sighted politicians?
6. 1,300 individual pieces of wood make up a 14-meter high wooden temple resembling the Wang Family Ancestral Hall. This is the first time the temple has been presented outside of China. The temple dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368–1664).
7. The 21er Haus, an impressive contemporary art gallery – If you’ve never been to this gallery, it’s time for you to plan a visit! The glass and steel building was the Austrian pavillion built for the 1958 World Fair in Brussels (one year after Ai Weiwei was born). It was once destined to be destroyed, but was instead relocated to Vienna.
This building, and the temple inside, perfectly symbolise the idea of the exhibition: translocation – transformation.
8. What Ai Weiwei stands for, and communicates in his art is worth supporting. Ai Weiwei doesn’t only create art, but he creates brave art, with all the risk involved that comes with criticising the powerful. Having been imprisoned before in his homeland China, you can be fairly confident this round-faced fellow means what he creates – which leads to the best kind of art of all.