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
Textile Tsunami | Milan 2011
Shira Shoval | Materials Library
"We are about to witness a full-on textile tsunami", predicted trend oracle Li Edelkoort in a lecture she gave at Design Museum Holon during her visit to Israel in January 2010.
Read More »
Features
Department of Textile Design graduates
Shira Shoval
Department of Textile Design graduates exhibition. Although textile is one of Man's primary expressions in material and one of the most commonly available materials around us, textile design is a subject that has not yet been sufficiently researched.
Read More »
Features
Modes of Life: A Bicycle Journey through Life
Irit Gilan
How are values of change and development connected with bicycles? It is a known fact that the mode of transportation itself has remained virtually unchanged since it was invented in the nineteenth century, whereas the rider or cyclist undergoes processes of growth, change, and development from birth to old age.
Read More »
© copyright 2010 Design Museum Holon   |   newsletter   |   contact us   |   disclaimer   |   site by Cyberserve   |   design by wuwa™   |   photos: Yael Pincus