Category Archives: Ai Weiwei

Responding to tragedy

The Art Caravan hasn’t travelled to Manitoba this winter, but if it does, I will search out this site specific art installation by Jaime Black, a multi-disciplinary artist.

Jaime Black sculptures, CBC photo

Her snow sculptures on the Red River, at the heart of Winnipeg, remind us of the many murdered and missing indigenous women in Manitoba and Canada.  This impermanent installation follows her 2014 The REDress Project which also addresses the tragedy of murdered women.

Here is a brief report (and more images) from the CBC, wherein Ms Black explains her motivation for the project, and her hope to add to the artwork.

The caliber of her work reminds me of the noted Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, who also creates intelligent, beautiful responses to disturbing events and situations.




Ai Weiwei….again

Here’s the blog post I had started last week, when I was waylaid by Anila Agha’s astonishing installation and wrote about it instead …..

I recently watched the documentary, Never Sorry , about the Chinese artist and social activist, Ai Weiwei.  If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.  It’s available at this link.  You can watch a trailer here.

The film was directed, and produced by Alison Klayman, and received many awards, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary.

Never Sorry reinforced my contention that Ai Weiwei is one of the most important contemporary artists in the world.  The story behind the installation Remembering, is very emotional.  (Yes, I cried.  Again.)

photo from the Daily Mail, UK

Does the best art move us to tears….or do I just need more sleep?!

For me, the layers of meaning imbedded in these works of art by Weiwei, and Agha, are what make them so interesting.  Not only are they visually pleasing, and sometimes downright beautiful, but these artists also convey important thoughts, ask great questions, and make connections to other ideas, times and places.  There’s so much there.

Renoir is quoted as saying, “For me a painting should be joyous and pretty–yes, pretty!  There are enough annoying things in life without our creating new ones.”

Now I’m not about to argue with Renoir, or his popularity.  Apparently, he was on to something.  I just think artists like Weiwei and Agha take the work even further by creating art that is both sensually and intellectually engaging.

That being said, I did cry at Monet’s garden in Giverny.






It was a beautiful day in Vancouver, and I was out walking by Coal Harbour.  When I read those words I thought, “Hmm….could it be?  I may have found the Ai Weiwei installation!”  A while ago I had heard, and then subsequently forgotten, that there was public artwork by Weiwei in the city.  The DO NOT CROSS  RISK OF INJURY definitely piqued my imagination and curiosity.

Sure enough, there it was.


Ai Weiwei The F Grass, Vancouver     photo by T. Vatrt

Because of its low profile, one has to be intentional, or in my case, lucky to find it…..or live in the neighbourhood.


Ai Weiwei installation, Vancouver     photo by T. Vatrt

F Grass is part of the Vancouver Biennale Open Air Museum.  Here’s a link to participate in the What the F? movement against the kind of censorship Ai Weiwei has experienced.


Definitely risky business.


Ai Weiwei The F Grass     photo by T. Vatrt

Art at Alcatraz…

….I’m not kidding.

I’ve never wanted to visit Alcatraz.  I don’t understand the appeal.  The Art Caravan pulled into San Francisco last week, and was offered the opportunity to tour Alcatraz.  Thank goodness a friend  mentioned the art show at Alcatraz or I probably wouldn’t have gone.

What a loss that would have been.  To put it plainly, this is one of the best exhibitions I have ever seen.  Ever.  Really.

The art show is actually a series of installations by the contemporary Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei.  He is considered to be as much  activist, as well as  artist.

There are seven different installations. Weiwei deals with the ideas of confinement, repression, and suppression.  He uses a variety of materials: sound, porcelain, recycled metals and playthings (Lego, and kites.)

He has been critical of his government, and is currently unable to leave China.  His re-purposing of the different spaces in the prison is most remarkable, when one considers he was not able to visit Alcatraz.

The artwork is very site specific.  His use of individual cell blocks as ‘sound booths’ for broadcasting was extremely moving.  One cell was filled with  classical music written by the Czech/Jewish composer, Haas, while interred at Terezin concentration camp.  Each cell had a different musician, poet or speaker.

I wasn’t actually able to enter the psychiatric holding cells,  The sound and space were too powerful for me.

The last installation I saw was remarkable.  It is composed of recycled metal, including solar panels.  It is like a giant winged creature, contained in a space.  One views is from a narrow, poorly lit corridor.

@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz is on view until April 26, 2015.