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Ai Weiwei Alcatraz Tour: Legos, Protest Songs and Prison Cells

originally posted on: Los Angeles Times by Carolina Miranda
September 26, 2014

Portraits of dissidents crafted from hundreds of thousands of Legos. A wing-like sculpture made from Tibetan solar cookers. Bright piles of white porcelain florals. And a series of sound installations featuring protest songs from around the world.

Despite being unable to leave China, artist Ai Weiwei — with the help of teams of assistants, a curator who bounced back and forth between California and China, and a whole lot of Skype — has nonetheless managed to create a series of large-scale installations on San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island.

Though he is held in a “soft” detention (his passport has been revoked) since 2011, presumably for work and statements critical of the Chinese government, Ai hasn’t stopped creating charged, political works, often on the issues of human rights and free speech. It is these themes that he revisits in “@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz,” a series of elaborate, large-scale installations at the old penitentiary — a place he has never visited, to create an installation he will likely never see.

As with all things Ai, a master of the dramatic gesture and voluble presence on social media, it is quite the spectacle.

Read the story and view photos at Los Angeles Times

Photo: In an unprecedented exhibition, Ai Weiwei installations devoted to freedom of expression occupy San Francisco’s old Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. “With Wind,” which greets visitors to an industrial building where prisoners used to work, takes the form of a traditional Chinese dragon kite. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

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