Saturday, 23 March 2013

Dear Diary... Ready Made

The Curiosity Cabinet's daily dose of inspiration for the aesthetically inclined...

Colored Vases, Ai Wei Wei, 2006;vases from the Neolithic age (5000 - 3000 BCE) and industrial paint; Courtesy AW Asia collection, New York

In a culture where regulations are in place for the restoration, protection and conservation of historic, antique and ancient monuments we are more than cautious when it comes to adapting or threatening those objects in any way. Contemporary artist, Ai Wei Wei is not scared of breaking traditions. He lives by his own rules of subversion and as it turns out, he is more than happy to physically destruct ancient objects; albeit with philosophical or political purpose. This purpose has seen him create an incredible body of work that is as beautiful as it is interesting.

When I first saw Ai Wei Wei's Coloured Vases, it was the bold, bright colours that drew me to them. On closer inspection, it is the contrast which really gives them weight. As the colour-pop of bright hues drip down the matt, neutral tones of the ancient vessels, you are struck by what Ai is really doing here. He is commenting on Chinese history: on the present, the past and power of cultural washing which wipes out that history in favour of a shiny, plastic future.

Colored Vases, Ai Wei Wei, 2006

Ai began the process of smashing Neolithic pottery in the nineties and in his work Dust to Dust, 2009 he explores this process even further. Archaic vessels are crushed to powder: unrecognisable, their sandy remains are stored in a clear glass jar. Like the ashes of ancestors, the memories of the Neolithic object lie to rest, forever memoralised inside a modern vessel. The process of violently smashing something precious in order to protect and conserve its broken remnants delivers us a complex set of questions in regards to cultural rules, memories and expectations.

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