Ai Weiwei – Forever Bicycles, 2014. 1,254 bicycles. Dimensions variable. Installation view, Waller Creek Delta, The Contemporary Austin – Museum Without Walls Program, Austin, Texas, 2017
Photo: Brian Fitzsimmons
Bicycles have always featured in Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s installations. The very first time that Ai used bicycles was in his installation known as Very Yao in 2008. As the years have passed, his use of bicycles has only gotten grander as is evident in his piece titled the Forever Bicycles. In Forever Bicycles, Ai used Shanghai-based Forever Company bicycles to make his massive installation. The repetitiveness and the size of the installation were intended to allude to China’s mass production, which is well known to fuel the Chinese manufacturing industry.
Sun Yuan and Peng Yu – Dogs Which Cannot Touch Each Other, 2003, 8 Bull Terriers, 8 Running Machines Without Drive
The video work titled Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other has only recently been removed from Guggenheim Museum’s exhibition series known as Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World. The video series has been met with disapproval and disparagement not only by some art critics but animal lovers and welfare organizations as well. Critics claim that the exhibition would have featured a series of various distinct video presentations depicting instances of unmistakable and unacceptable animal cruelty in the name of art.
Li Hongbo – Teaching Aid, 2014, paper
Li Hongbo is an artist based in Beijing, China and creates unusual and surprising art pieces from paper. A designer and book editor, Li Hongbo started collecting and experimenting his ideas with paper after being inspired by the festive ‘paper gourd’ decorations and traditional Chinese boys’ toys. Both of these pieces have a simple but amazing ‘honeycomb’ composition and can be molded into any shape.
Huang Qingjun – Family Stuff
Normally, life is viewed from the perspective of people as they appear in public. It is not unusual to come across a rich looking individual only to realize that their background or where they call home is not as lavish. When what we consider to be normal is transformed inside out, then a whole new dynamism of sights emerges. When Huang Qingjun took his first family picture of such nature in 2003, it would be the beginning of a new view in photography. Together with Ma Hongjie, they have for 10 years now been capturing scenes of life in its fragility.
Liu Bolin – Hiding in the City No. 2 – Suo Jia Village, 2005
Many artists find new and unique ways to focus on social issues that affect their lives and the lives of others around them. While some art meant to stand up for those who do not have the ability to speak out against injustices happening to them, art can also be inspired by events that directly impact the artists themselves. Art can be used as a way to draw attention to problems that are prevalent or hidden in society, it can be used to create space, and it can also be a tool to instigate change.
Xu Bing – Phoenix, MASS MoCA, Massachusetts, USA, 2013
Photo: Hideo Sakata
Chinese artist Xu Bing spent two years creating his work, Phoenix. The installation features two monumental birds fabricated entirely from materials harvested from construction sites in urban China, including demolition debris, steel beams, tools, and remnants of the daily lives of migrant laborers. It is a beautifully crafted symbol of the complex relationship between the labor force, accumulation of wealth, and history of China.
The internally illuminated 12-ton birds are suspended mid-air, dwarfing viewers; the male Phoenix Feng measures 90 feet long, while the female Huang reaches 100 feet in length, beak to (steel) tail feathers. Xu Bing is widely considered to be among the prominent Chinese artists of today.