A brief art film from London's NOWNESS gives a portrait of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, estranged from his biggest UK exhibition to date.
Part One of the film Ai Weiwei: Not at Blenheim Palace takes a look at the behind-the-scenes of installation with Ai Weiwei at work half a world away from the site of his latest exhibition.
The filmmakers ask: What happens when Ai Weiwei, the celebrated Chinese artist and activist, can’t attend the installation of his biggest UK show to date?
Answer: Assistants cover themselves in brightly colored paint, flowers are arranged in bicycle baskets, and business proceeds as usual at the dissident artist’s Beijing studio, while more than 50 of his works are unloaded and installed at the sprawling Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England, some 8,000 kilometers away.
To mark the opening of Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace, the inaugural show of the newly-formed Blenheim Art Foundation, NOWNESS joined forces with filmmaker Jessica Sarah Rinland and Ai Weiwei himself—who contributed footage he shot at his base—to capture the surreal reality of his long-distance relationship.
Unable to travel since 2011, when his passport was confiscated by Chinese authorities, Weiwei worked closely with Blenheim Art Foundation founder, Lord Edwards Spencer-Churchill, and Director Michael Frahm, to install the exhibition via countless video walk-throughs, and detailed 3D laser scans of the palace, that allowed the artist to plot his work throughout the spectacular, Baroque space.
“Weiwei’s involvement in the installation and in the films has been deep despite the distance,” says Frahm. “In a way, these films recreate what we’ve done with the exhibition itself: a trans-continental flow of information to make it all come to be.”
The exhibition Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace runs through December 14. Nowness presents Part two of the Ai Weiwei portrait next Thursday, October 9.