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Ai Weiwei

I remember seeing my first Ai Weiwei installation in person. It was his collection of porcelain sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern and it was a sight to behold. It gave me my first sense of the scope and scale in which the Chinese artist works. His latest exhibition, in New York, is no less as ambitious.
It’s called Good Fences Make Good Neighbours, and features site-specific works dealing with the theme of migration and people moving across borders and space. The two largest pieces of the public art showing (which also celebrates the 40th anniversary of New York’s Public Art Fund) are located in Central Park and in Washington Square Park. They encourage you to walk through them, to look up and around, and consider the implications of your own movement being limited or restricted.
This theme is timely, even if it the refugee crisis may not necessarily still be headline news. Displacement of people, how they are or are not welcomed in other countries and what it means to be citizens, of one country or many, are issues worth talking about. For this reason, I’ve liked seeing these pieces across the city – whether it’s the giant pieces or the smaller portraits hanging from lamp-posts of well-known immigrants, like Marlene Dietrich or Alfred Einstein.
As K’naan raps in The Hamilton Mixtape version of Immigrants (We Get the Job Done):
“You can be an immigrant without risking your lives /
Or crossing these borders with thrifty supplies /
All you got to do
Is see the world through new eyes.”
Seeking to see the world through new eyes is a laudable aim, but when it doesn’t happen on an every-day basis, art is so important for this. It’s one of the reasons I was so moved by the virtual reality piece Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Emmanuel Lubezki made that debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and for which the filmmaking duo will receive an honorary Oscar. Their short film Carne y Arena took me deep into my own prejudice, to the point where when I, placed in the scenario of crossing the Mexican border, was asked to get down by a policeman, I shook my head no. I was in a made-up world, based on fact, yes, but my mind told me there was no way he was talking to me; that I would never be in that situation. When his gun was directed straight on in my face, I found myself scrambling to the floor. I hope to never be in that kind of situation, but it showed me that I still hold some perhaps discriminatory ideas about what being a refugee really means. It’s powerful to feel with new eyes too.
The exhibition will run until February next year. In the meantime, here’s my episode of The Rundown dedicated to Good Fences Make Good Neighbours.

* Johnny Depp‘s been promoting his new movie Transcendence in China, his first time to the country. Seems he’s making it count, taking in the sights and jamming with a local rockstar – naturally.

* Last week, Wu-Tang Clan announced details of the one-of-a-kind album The Wu – Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, and this week, RZA told Billboard they’ve already been receiving offers for it in the $5 million range.

* Drake‘s two for two this week, dropping Draft Day on Wednesday and then Days in the East on Thursday. Some say the track is about his relationship with Rihanna, which is apparently getting serious, but either way, I wonder if there’ll be another song tomorrow too?

* Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was the subject of that riveting doccie a few years back Never Sorry, has opened the biggest showing of his career to date, in Germany.  Called Evidence, it deals with his feelings on repression and his relationship with his homeland.

* Scarlett Johansson has been busy – playing a murderous alien in Under the Skin and Black Widow in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but in Lucy, she displays powers of a different kind, in Luc Basson’s new movie, which is due out in August. It looks a heck of a lot better than his most recent film The Family was.

 

* It’s a new era for American TV as Jimmy Fallon officially took over the reigns of the Tonight Show last night – with the help of some of his friends – a little band called U2, performing on the Top of the Rock at with a glorious sunset backdrop, and that guy known as Will Smith, who helped him illustrate hip hop dancing.  Mariah Carey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert De Niro and even Joan Rivers, who had been banned from the show, dropped by.

* Amidst the relentless rain, London Fashion Week is trying to bring rays of sunshine to the UK. On Monday, Tom Ford showed off a playful side when he incorporated a football jersey a’la Jay-Z into his collection, while Vivienne Westwood used her show to urge against fracking.

* The two members of Pussy Riot, who had been in New York before heading to Sochi, have apparently been arrested in the Olympic city. It’s believed they were going to perform an anti-Putin song.

* A $1 million vase by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been destroyed in protest by a man in Florida, who says he was protesting a Miami gallery not showing local artists. The man, who faces criminal charges, claims he was following Weiwei’s own vase-breaking-protest. Of course, that was the artist breaking his own art – not something that didn’t belong to him.

* Kelis is about to release her new album, called Food – the title makes more sense with the news that she’s about to star in her own cooking show on the Food Network, from next week. Wonder if Milkshake(s) and Jerk Ribs will be on the menu?