The exhibition “Disposition” by Ai Weiwei for the Zuecca Project Space is a collateral event of the 55th Venice Biennale and includes two major projects: Straight, already presented at the artist’s Hirshhorn Museum (Washington D. C.) retrospective in 2012 and readapted for the Zuecca Project Space, Le Zitelle Complex, Giudecca, and S.A.C.R.E.D., a site-specific installation created for this exhibition and installed at the Sant’Antonin Church, San Marco.
In 2011 Ai Weiwei was imprisoned for 81 days in a secret location, accused of evading taxes and acting against the Communist government. In this project, the artist describes in detail for the first time his days of imprisonment and the conditions in which he was forced to live under the continuous and obsessive surveillance he was subjected to for the entire period he was there.
The guards controlled his every move, even when he had to go to the restroom. Without any doubt, this unyielding surveillance was meant to bend him and to weaken his mind. Thankfully, the artist was stronger than was expected.
The project is comprised of six metal containers, fashioned as bunkers, each one about 1.5 metres in height. A door on the side is inscribed with the cell number and small horizontal windows with sliding glass are cut on the sides and on top of the bunker. Small steps are positioned just below the windows’ locations so that viewers can climb on top and look inside the room.
Each bunker depicts a key moment of the artist’s everyday life in prison, with painstaking, expressive details. The six episodes have subtitles, the initials of which together combined create the title of the installation as an acronym and thus pointing to the site-specificity of the installation in the religious venue.
The six episodes are titlted: S.upper, A.ccuser, C.leansing, R.itual, E.ntropy, D.oubt. The titles of the dioramas point at their relationship not only with the process of imprisonment and the artist’s memory of its psychological impact, but also to their relationship with the holy environment of the church, from the general idea of “sacred” to “ritual” and renewal and to the less religious “entropy”, closing with the powerful concept of “doubt”.
“The precision of details and the painstaking reproduction of the spaces pass through the powerful filter of the artist’s memory, which seems to relive instant after instant in the project, without anguish but with lucid determination. The works are an effective description of the system of ‘high-proximity’ surveillance deployed by the detention system to which the artist was subjected”. (Curator Maurizio Bortolotti)
Click on the image below to read on Straight, the other project in “Disposition”, at the Zuecca Project Space.
All Photographs: “Disposition” by Ai Weiwei, ‘S.A.C.R.E.D.’ at Sant’Antonin Church, San Marco, and ‘Straight’, (last image only), Zuecca Project Space, Giudecca, Collateral Event of the 55th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia. Photos: C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia.