A magnitude eight earthquake occurred in Sichuan, China, on 12 May 2008. In December that year, Ai Weiwei Studio began a “citizens’ investigation” on behalf of the student victims of the disaster. The surveyors collected the names of 5,196 children, along with their birth dates and the school they attended. This investigation revealed that the collapse of the schools was due to construction utilizing poor quality materials, a factor which the Chinese government subsequently tried to cover up.
The exhibition in the Chelsea space is an installation derived from twisted steel rebar from the schools that collapsed during the earthquake. A documentary film about the making of
the installation will also be shown. Mounted on the wall will be a photographic installation which mirrors what is being exhibited on the ground.
In early 2008, Ai Weiwei was invited to construct a studio in a new development in Jiading District of Shanghai, China. Construction of the studio began in July 2009 and finished in
October 2010. Almost immediately following the completion of the project, the local government declared that the construction was illegal and that the building would be
demolished. As a reaction to the government’s decree, through Twitter Ai Weiwei invited supporters to rally at his Shanghai studio for a feast of 10,000 river crabs. Ai Weiwei himself was placed under house arrest and not permitted to attend. On 11 January 2011, Ai Weiwei’s Shanghai Studio was demolished.
The exhibition in the Fifth Avenue space is an installation of 2,500 hand-made porcelain river crabs titled He Xie. In Chinese the word for river crab “he xie” sounds similar to the
word “harmony”, a euphemism for the Chinese government’s censorship, especially of the Internet. In the same room, a documentary film about the Shanghai Studio will be shown
along with photos of the before and after of its demolition.
Mary Boone Gallery Website