about | contact | press | friends | magazine | newsletter | materials library | العربية | עברית  
Visit Exhibition Collections Calendar Education
Issue #10
June-October 2014
Features
A New Materialistic Order
Gili Yuval / June 12 2014

Gili Yuval ponders what esteemed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's exhibition, currently showing at the Lisson Gallery in London, and last year's ‘Free Wheel' exhibition at Design Museum Holon, have in common.

Showing in the main exhibition space at London's Lisson Gallery are three new objects from the ‘Forever' series by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. The series consists of complex structures made from metal bicycles, gigantic versions of which were exhibited in the past year in Toronto and Taiwan. In comparison, the versions Weiwei created especially for the Lisson Gallery seem like a simplified miniature model, a kind of prototype.


Ai Weiwei Forever Bicycles Toronto 2013

If we set aside for a moment Weiwei's weight as a critical artist and human rights activist, from a purely technocratic perspective it is evident that his focus in this exhibition is on materials, shapes, and structures.

Ai Weiwei | Gallery Lisson, London | Exhibitions
Lisson Gallery, London

The objects in the exhibition present his ability to use a familiar shape to create an object with a new meaning. Thus for example, in the gallery's courtyard seemingly soft leather armchairs turn into cold, heavy, marble armchairs that still maintain (only outwardly) the characteristics of leather armchairs, for example folds of material and imagined softness. Similarly, handcuffs become an intriguing object when the rigid metal is replaced by smoothed wood or green jade, and the shape of an everyday clothes hanger is maintained when it is made from lustrous crystal or polished metal, that transform it into a sparkling object.

Ai Weiwei | Gallery Lisson, London | Exhibitions
Marble "leather" armchairs

Ai Weiwei | Gallery Lisson, London | Exhibitions
Everyday objects made from crystal

Ai Weiwei | Gallery Lisson, London | Exhibitions
A marble gasmask | Use of traditional materials from the world of art to create contemporary objects


The issue of maintaining shape is reinforced in Weiwei's ‘Forever' series bicycle installations. His inquiry into general shape creates a strong structure that cannot be dismantled. Try to remove one bicycle - the whole structure will collapse. The power of the installation is driven by the uniformity and non-variance of the items comprising it, whether it is a two-dimensional bicycle structure on a wall in the gallery, or a massive, complex structure made from more than 3,000 bicycles, like the installation that was exhibited last year in Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square.

 

Ai Weiwei | Gallery Lisson, London | Exhibitions

 

In recent years the bicycle has become an object that challenges designers and artists, and a subject of exhibitions in its own right. In the ‘Free Wheel' exhibition in 2013 here at Design Museum Holon, about a hundred iconic bicycles were presented from the perspectives of design, history, and innovation. It is interesting to recall the circuitous route in the Upper Gallery where bicycles from architect Michael Embacher's impressive private collection were suspended from the ceiling. This route enabled visitors to enjoy the path that opened up before them, and at the same time to wander among bicycles and examine structures, shapes, and materials. Try to remove one bicycle - nothing will happen to the structure, but we will lose a story or a technique or an idea, whether it is a bicycle that served paratroopers during World War One, or one ridden by professional cyclists in the Tour de France.

Ai Weiwei | Gallery Lisson, London | Exhibitions
Ai Weiwei's bicycles in Lisson Gallery, London

By contrast, Weiwei's bicycles provide a completely different experience. They are not really the story, and their clean, polished metal appearance does not evoke a connotation of riding in a dusty, sweaty city, or hilly, off-road cycling in wild, natural landscapes. The real story here is the structure, the overall shape, the whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Shifting the view from the overall structure to the individual item evokes wonder at the delicate welding of the metal bicycle pieces that were created by an artist. But in fact, there is hardly any point in lingering over the small details once you have examined one bicycle, since all the bicycles comprising the installation are identical and equal, and it is only the connections between them that hold the structure stable and firm. Did someone mention Communism?

Ai Weiwei | Gallery Lisson, London | Exhibitions

Exhibition closes on July 19, 2014
Lisson Gallery, London

Features
Like Clay in the Hands of the Curator | Graduates 2012
Maya Dvash
A visit to the graduate exhibition in the Department of Industrial Design at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design raises questions about the purpose and role of the exhibition, but also reveals some particularly interesting projects.
Read More »
Features
Yamamoto - Beyond Appearance
Dr. Victor Frostig
Yamamoto is one of the most common Japanese surnames, and means ‘foot of the mountain'. It seems that with each collection he designs Yohji Yamamoto climbs from the foot of the mountain to its summit, lingers there for a moment, and immediately returns to the starting point.
Read More »
Features
Stop, Design | Graduates 2012
Maya Dvash
The graduate exhibition of the Faculty of Design at Holon Institute of Technology-HIT was launched last week under the title: Graduate Exhibition in an Era of Excess Information and Short Attention Span.
Read More »
© copyright 2010 Design Museum Holon   |   newsletter   |   contact us   |   disclaimer   |   site by Cyberserve   |   design by wuwa™   |   photos: Yael Pincus