1 On Presidents' Day, we arrived at Washington DC's Union Station around 10:30 in the morning. Opened in 1907, Union Station boasts a magnificent arched ceiling in the Beaux-Arts style of white granite decorated with gold leaf.
2 The Ai Weiwei exhibit, "According to What?" runs through February 24th at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which was designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft and is part of the Smithsonian Institution.
3 This piece is Forever, 2003 - 42 bicycles. Ai Weiwei dismantled 42 Forever brand bicycles and reassembled them into an interconnected circular form. With rapid modernization, swarms of bicycles are vanishing from city streets, giving the name Forever an ironic ring.
4 This is Snake Ceiling, 2009 - Backpacks. Approximately 90,000 people were killed in the May 12, 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Many school buildings collapsed, killing many children and leaving their backpacks scattered across the quake areas.
5 This work, hanging from the ceiling and resembling a giant snake, is formed from commonly used student backpacks in various sizes (representing children from elementary school through junior high) laid out as a requiem for the souls of those who died in the disaster.
6 There were many Weiwei-isms in the exhibit, like this one: The world is changing. This is a fact. Artists work hard hoping to change it according to their own aspirations.
7 Table with Two Legs on the Wall, 2008 - Wooden table from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) - Ai first began working on this series of objects in 1997, using furniture which was made without nails and held together solely by traditional joinery techniques.
8 Grapes, 2010 - 40 antique wooden stools - There are numerous variations in this series, however, all are based on the idea of disassembling the furniture and reassembling it in ways that transform its meaning and obscure its function, focusing on the artisanship and elegant simplicity of the original furniture's design.
9 This is Map of China, 2008 - Tieli wood (iron wood) from dismantled temples of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) temples. The work can be interpreted in a variety of ways.
10 As a map of China, it can be understood as symbolizing the political unity of a country made up of many different cultural and historical factors. The monumental scale of the work suggests the long history of the Chinese nation.
11 China Log, 2005 - Tieli wood (iron wood) - This sculpture is made of wood from eight pillars salvaged from Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) temples and was assembled using traditional Chinese joinery techniques. Again, an outline of China is seen at the cross-section.
12 Satoko Onishi, one of my traveling companions, was fascinated by this exhibit.
13 If we push the boundaries of craftsmanship and artisanship, we see that they are not just mechanical skills but are actually an exploration of the very nature of the materials they employ, a challenging, a questioning of wood or stone materials. This changes our perspective.
14 Untitled - Huali wood - Ai has created several works using this form. These sculptures, assembled without nails using traditional joinery techniques, are truncated icosahedrons, a shape similar to the surface pattern on a soccer ball.
15 A name is the first and final marker of individual rights, one fixed part of the ever-changing human world. A name is the most basic characteristic of our human rights: no matter how poor or how rich, all living people have a name, and it is endowed with good wishes, the expectant blessings of kindness and virtue.
16 This photograph is called Study of Perspective: The White House, 1995.
17 Ai Weiwei in the elevator when taken into custody by the police, 2009 - Ai took the photo and Tweeted it as he was being arrested. Although China has many restrictions regarding the internet, Ai spends a great deal of time on it.
18 Marble Helmet, 2010 - Marble
19 Wenchuan Steel Rebar, 2008-12 - Steel rebar (40 tons) - In this work, Wi uses rebar recovered from the rubble of collapsed schoolhouses in Sichuan following the 2008 earthquake.
20 The work serves as a reminder of the repercussions of the earthquake and expresses the artist's concern over society's ability to start afresh "almost as if nothing had happened."
21 The orderly arrangement of rebar evokes a Minimalist artistic aesthetic, but the large divide in the piece is reminiscent of both a ground fissure and of a gulf between values.
22 This is a massive physical work, designed to remind audience of the individual in danger of being forgotten.
23 Extending a hand to those in trouble, rescuing the dying, and helping the injured is a form of humanitarianism, unrelated to love of country or people. Do not demean the value of life; it commands a broader, more equal dignity.
24 In He Xie, 2010 - 3,000 porcelain crabs, a new work, Ai metaphorically represents the restriction of individual expression and free speech in Chinese society.
25 He xie literally means "river crab," but it is also a homophone for the word meaning "harmonious," which is used in the Chinese Communist Party slogan "the realization of a harmonious society." On the internet, it has become a term referring to online censorship and the removal of antiestablishment views and information.
26 In Nov. 2010, responding to the imminent demolition of his newly constructed studio in Shanghai, Ai called for support via Twitter and invited guests to a feast of 10,000 river crabs in protest of the government's control of information. Ai was placed under house arrest because of this.
27 Bowls of Pearls, 2006 - This is one of a pair of porcelain bowls and freshwater pearls, measuring about 15x40-inches or 38x98-cm - quite beautiful!
28 Colored Vases, 2007-10 - This series consists of Han Dynasty (206BCE-220CE) vases dipped in industrial paints, covering original surfaces. Changed like this, the vases force viewers to consider questions of authenticity and the value and meaning of an original artwork.
29 On the back wall - Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995/2009 - Dropping this urn to the floor and thus destroying 2,000 years of cultural tradition and legacy expresses the notion that new ideas and values are produced through iconoclasm.
30 A historical property has morals and ethics of the society that created it and it can be revived. What I mean is that we can discover new possibilities from the process of dismantling, transforming, and recreating.
31 Coca-Cola Vase, 2007 - Vase from the Neolithic age (5000-3000 BCE) and paint - In this series, Ai has inscribed the Coca-Cola logo on pottery jars he found in antique markets, blending contemporary design and branding with ancient art.
32 Moon Chest, 2008 - 7 chests in huali wood (Chinese quince), a precious and highly desirable wood. In each, the artist has incised four circular openings that transform these objects from functional pieces into pure artwork.
33 The 81 chests in the series, 7 of which are on view in this exhibition, are each unique as the precise placement of the holes varies. Never-the-less, the upper and lower openings always align.
34 Looking through the holes, one can glimpse every phase of the moon.
35 Outdoors is Ai Weiwei's monumental work, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. The twelve bronze animal heads representing the signs of the Chinese zodiac, each of which stand approximately ten feet high, were displayed around the perimeter of the fountain in the Museum’s central plaza.
36 Cheerful, quick-witted, and popular, the Horse enjoys a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, and often has an active romantic life.
37 Quiet and introverted, the Ox is steadfast, dependable, and a born leader. Those born in Ox years are often good with their hands, and may be outstanding surgeons.
38 Those born in the Year of the Rooster are profound thinkers. Talented and capable, they can also be eccentric and may have difficulties in their relationships with others.
39 Tigers are powerful, passionate, and daring. They are self-confident leaders, but can be short-tempered and rebellious. Tigers are often seductive, and are capable of intense romantic attachments.
40 Compassionate and wise, the Ram often prefers to be alone, free to contemplate at his or her leisure. The Ram can be highly creative, with innate natural elegance. At times shy or pessimistic, Rams can also be deeply religious.
41 Those born under the sign of the Rat are charming, clever, and have excellent taste. They are ambitious, hardworking perfectionists and are often wealthy and successful. Family is important to Rats and they are generous and supportive to the people they love.