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Chinese artist Ai Weiwei joins Art Gallery of Ontario visitors for rare live video chat
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei poses for a photograph with his new installation entitled 'Sunflower Seeds', at its unveiling in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern gallery, in London in this October 11, 2010 file photo.
TORONTO.- One of the world’s most provocative contemporary artists, Ai Weiwei, will join Art Gallery of Ontario visitors for a live video chat with the AGO’s director and CEO, Matthew Teitelbaum, during the Gallery’s popular First Thursdays art party on Sept. 5, 2013. The event’s programming will delve into the imagination and experience of Ai, who is under constant surveillance at his home in Beijing and has been unable to leave China since the government confiscated his passport in 2011.

“This live chat is an incredible and rare opportunity to hear Ai Weiwei directly share his insights into his art, activism and passion for China and its changing landscape,” said Matthew Teitelbaum. “As we open this major exhibition, Weiwei’s physical absence is deeply felt, but technology allows him to defy borders so we can welcome him personally to Toronto.”

Tickets for AGO First Thursdays are available at ago.net/firstthursdays and a special ticket is required to experience the live video chat. Quantities are limited and are expected to sell out quickly.

The live chat with Ai is one of many initiatives planned for the upcoming AGO exhibition, Ai Weiwei: According to What? Chronicling Ai’s work from the mid-1990s to the present, the exhibition blends art history, activism and traditional Chinese materials and symbols to create a compelling vision of the artist’s everyday reality and his ongoing fight for freedom of expression in the face of Chinese government censorship. Featuring more than 40 large scale works of art including sculptures, photographs and video and audio installations, Ai Weiwei: According to What? is on display from Aug. 17 to Oct. 27, 2013 and the AGO is the only Canadian stop on a North American tour.

Ai Weiwei: According to What? includes many large-scale and detailed artworks, including:

•Straight (2008-12), which contains 38 tons of reinforced steel rebar recovered from post- earthquake fissures and arranged specifically for the exhibition;

•Château Lafite (1988), a sculpture comprised of a wine bottle and peasant shoes that pays homage to the artwork of Marcel Duchamp and Jasper Johns;

•Grapes (2010), showcasing a number of wooden stools from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) that artisans have rejoined into a cluster;

•New York Photographs (1983-93), a selection of 32 black-and-white documentary photos that Ai took during his time studying art in New York City;

•Surveillance Camera (2010), a piece of technology carefully replicated in marble, recreating the device that the Chinese government uses to keep an eye on the artist in his home; and

•He Xie (2010), an installation of more than 3,000 porcelain river crabs. The term “he xie” refers to the word “harmonious,” which is part of the Chinese Communist Party’s slogan and is now internet slang for official online censorship.





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