【 http://hyperallergic.com/ 】   Post Date: 9/26/2014
Ai Weiwei’s Songs of Freedom on Alcatraz
Author: Whitney Phaneuf
Birds reappear as we enter the press preview of @Large: AiWeiwei on Alcatraz (pronounced “At Large”), an exhibition of seven new installations in which freedom is a central theme. The birds are actually paper kites, suspended mid-flight and bathed in surreal colors. They’re paired with a large dragon kite that winds through the rusted ceiling pipes of the long industrial room that was once used for prison labor.
September 25, 2014
 2014926Trace3.jpg (640×424)
A view of Ai Weiwei’s large “Trace” (2014) on Alcatraz (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic unless otherwise noted)
 
SAN FRANCISCO — It’s a surprisingly clear morning as we exit the ferry to Alcatraz, but the former federal prison still looms like eerie, ancient ruins. A large crowd gathers to hear a tour guide introduce this place that held men captive for thirty years. “The torture was really seeing the boats go by,” the guide says as seagulls caw above our heads, another thing that likely tormented prisoners.
 
Birds reappear as we enter the press preview of @Large: AiWeiwei on Alcatraz (pronounced “At Large”), an exhibition of seven new installations in which freedom is a central theme. The birds are actually paper kites, suspended mid-flight and bathed in surreal colors. They’re paired with a large dragon kite that winds through the rusted ceiling pipes of the long industrial room that was once used for prison labor.
 
 2014926Alcatraz.jpg (640×424)
A view of Alcatraz from the ferry (click to enlarge)
 
 
Ai has left code messages and quotes on select pieces of the dragon’s individual, handcut circles, which form its body. Some may require googling (“Ze Du Out. Disgusting Dictator. — Nito Alves”), while others are obvious (“Every one of us is a potential convict. — Ai Weiwei”). The brightly colored “With Wind” is a stark contrast to the bleak concrete and glass building, and they ease us into a show that gradually embraces its environment as it progresses. Of course, Ai has never stepped foot on this island — he’s still not allowed to leave China — but he seems to understand it, from his own 81-day jail sentence and from the videos, images, and history books shared by curator Cheryl Haines, who carried out his vision.
 
 
Key Words: Ai Weiwei,Freedom,Alcatraz
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