At Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz
Internationally renowned Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei is one of contemporary art's most newsworthy figures, noted for both his groundbreaking work and his outspoken stance on human rights, which ultimately resulted in his controversial 2011 detainment. In an astonishing new large-scale project, he turns his attention to Alcatraz—a place he cannot visit because he is not permitted to leave China, but that stands as a world-famous symbol of both incarceration and protest. This book showcases a major exhibition of site-specific, multimedia installations and sculptures Ai Weiwei has created for the island, on view from the fall of 2014 through the spring of 2015. Featuring beautiful photographs and thought-provoking text, At Large is the essential document of this remarkable happening from one of today's most celebrated artists.
in a complex structure of power and control. Following in the footsteps of prison guards, visitors are placed in a position of authority, and yet the narrowness of the space creates a visceral feeling of physical restriction. Ai Weiwei, Refraction, 2014 (detail); installation: Tibetan solar panels, steel; part of @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, Alcatraz Island, 2014–2015 A worker prepares to attach a Tibetan solar panel to Refraction Ai Weiwei, Refraction, 2014 (detail); installation: Tibetan
1973 he released eight albums, including Canto libre and El derecho de vivir en paz. He was a member of the Communist Party of Chile, a prominent supporter of Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government, and a leader of the New Chilean Song movement during the cultural renaissance of the Allende years. In the days following the U.S.–backed military coup of September 12, 1973, Jara was arrested, imprisoned, and ultimately murdered. His recordings were banned for many years in Chile. Manifesto I
on Alcatraz. At that moment, I suddenly realized that this artist was the answer. Here was a remarkable opportunity to engage someone who lived through the Cultural Revolution—a time when his father, the renowned poet Ai Qing, suffered terribly for his artistic stance; an artist who is not only an outspoken human rights activist but someone who has personally experienced being detained for his beliefs. I asked, “What if I brought you a prison?” His immediate response was, “I would like that.”
blankets, wholly insufficient, as was evidenced by the fact that four blankets were provided for the warmer and drier cells upstairs. The prison officer had to put a searchlight on me to note that I was “present and accounted for.” The light was switched off, and as no other prisoners were at that particular time confined in the dungeon I was left alone with the rats for company. The water and sewer system of the jails were located in the center of the underground dungeon in front of the cells
“re-education.” The family arrived first in frigid Heilongjiang Province at the outset of the Great Leap Forward (1958–1961), an ill-conceived attempt at transforming China into a modern communist paradise that led to the starvation of an estimated 30 to 40 million people. From 1959 onward, they were transferred to a series of camps in Xinjiang, China’s westernmost Central Asian province, including one near Tian Shan, Xinjiang’s “Heavenly Mountains.” For nearly two decades, Ai Qing and his