Tonight, Ai Weiweis new installation 81 Wooden Balls world premiered at Art Museums of Bergen
as part of the group exhibition Real Life Stories. The installation fills the entire Tower Room at Lysverket and consists of 81 large wooden balls which are placed in a 9 by 9 meter square. The total number of balls coincides with the number of days Ai Weiwei was imprisoned in 2011.
The artist has stated that the 9 by 9 meter formation draws its significance partly from the fact that 9 is the highest one digit number in China and that it symbolizes eternity. The balls are made from Huali Wood, each weighs 35 kilograms, and their polyhedron shape is based on sketches by Leonardo da Vinci. Ai Weiwei got the idea of using this ancient shape from one of his sons plastic toys. Together with his team, he has spent two years exploring the joining methods of traditional Chinese furniture, and the balls are put together completely without the use of either glue, screws or nails.
One of the curators of the exhibition, Feng Boyi, who has been Ai Weiweis friend for many years, says that the wooden objects are not connected together in any meaningful way. But they are sturdy, and thus serve as a symbolic reference to the rigorous tension of the Chinese social and ethical systems, and as an allegory for the internally stable state of Chinese society, which lacks the potential power of self-adjustment.
The work also alludes to the conflict, contradiction and entanglement inherent in Chinas modern historical progression. If Ai Weiwei tends to employ the methods of postmodernism, then this satirical, ironic work displays a more directly effective handling method, turning the standards that traditional crafts can provide into something transitory and unreliable, while the delight in the humorous, mischievous and absurd breaking of taboos become all the more thought-provoking.
It is not only in the museums Tower Room that visitors can become better acquainted with this world renowned Chinese artist. In the stairway that leads to Lysverkets Tower Room five films that feature Ai Weiwei are shown. The artist has taken a critical stance against Chinese authorities in his writing, art works and films, and this can be seen clearly in the films So Sorry, Disturbing the Peace and One Recluse. The prize winning film Never Sorry is screened in the cinema at the Stenersen building.
A film that presents the installation of 81 Wooden Balls is screened right outside of the Tower Room. This has been produced by film and television students from the University of Bergen and can be seen here Curators of the exhibition are Feng Boyi and Bjørn Inge Follevaag. Director Erlend G. Høyersten and chief curator Eli Okkenhaug are cocurators.