Ai Weiwei: On The Table

If you happen to be in Barcelona this week, it is a must to visit the exhibition at La Virreina Image Centre, La Rambla 99. It is the last week of an exhibition that I was lucky to see in connection with a meeting on the upcoming DocsBarcelona, whose Elena Subira took me to be a perfect guide. Moreover Llucià Homs, the man behind it all and the one who met Ai Weiwei several times in Beijing explained me the exciting background to how the exhibition was put together:

Ai Weiwei asked in beforehand to get precise drawings of the rooms in the fine, old Palau (Palace). From those he arranged it all. There was no discussion where and how the photos from his New York time, from Beijing etc. should be placed on the walls, he decided, he designed the glass showcases where he put the famous vase with coca cola painted on it or other Marcel Duchamp-inspired readymades. His extraordinary fight for the victims of the earthquake in Sichuan 2008, the official letters to the families of the children are placed on the walls in a separate room, his own constant clashes with the authorities, his arrests, are documented on video screens – and you find his sun flower seeds and the marble flowers on the floor…

I was there for a couple of hours, could have stayed longer but have brought home the catalogue book of this Barcelona exhibition of a world artist, who is not allowed to leave his country but produces art exhibitions all over. There are films about him – last year DocsBarcelona showed Andreas Johnsen’s ”Ai Weiwei – the Fake Case” – and if you go to youtube there are loads of his own work available as is Alison Klayman’s ”Ai Weiwei, Never Sorry”. Watch his music video ”Dumbass” inspired by his emprisonment of 81 days in 2011.

I did not know so much about his time in New York, he lived there from 1981-93, well documented in photographs from East Village giving a good impression of his links to writers like Allen Ginsberg and first and foremost other dissident Chinese artists.

The title of the exhibition is explained. A meeting table occupies a whole room, text from the website:

”(It) is a table from Ai Weiwei’s studio in Beijing that has been installed in the former dining room at the Palau de la Virreina.

This table has several thousand meetings in its memory. Professionals from all over the world have gathered with Ai Weiwei around this table to organise and discuss the projects, publications and shows he has been involved with since 2000. This piece is therefore an expression for the artist’s desire for dialogue and conversation, for sharing and discussing ideas and attitudes available to anyone who wants to sit at it during the exhibition.

If you want to be a part of it, take a photo of your interaction with the table (a meeting, a conversation, taking time out, etc.) and upload your image to Instagram with the hashtag #AWWOnTheTable. Your images will form part of the installation and can also be seen and shared on this web gallery.”

Elena Subira took a photo of me doing the Ai Weiwei – finger – thing.

The exhibition will not travel, it was specifically made for Barcelona, all objects will now be transported to Berlin for storage – no chance that it would come back to the artist. I was told that the Chinese embassy in Spain was not happy with the exhibition to be made but when it wanted to react, the exhibition was already through the Chinese customs and on its way to Barcelona on a ship!

Share your love
Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

Articles: 3867