The Readymade and Destruction in Art

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On the 2nd October I took part in a panel discussion at the Royal Academy exploring concepts of the readymade and destruction in art. It was fascinating to hear artists Cornelia Parker and Christian Marclay talk about destructive processes in their own practice, and the panel was expertly chaired by Prof. Dario Gamboni. The RA have subsequently released a podcast of the discussion, which I have included below for anyone interested in the topic.

“Many of the strategies that Ai Weiwei employs as an artist can be easily aligned within the legacy of iconoclasm and the notion of art under attack. Works such as Dropping a Han-Dynasty UrnHan Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo and Kippe all possess an action or process by the artist which subverts the original visual representation and meaning of an object.”

Dario Gamboni, Professor of Art History at the University of Geneva, chairs this panel, which invites speakers to discuss the intention and meaning behind the destructive processes in art’s creation and display, and the impact this has on the way we interact and react to its emotive power to shock and subvert meaning.

Panellists include:

• Artist Christian Marclay, who first became internationally known in the 1980s for his reassembled readymades created from fragmented vinyl records, in his series of work Recycled Records.

• Cornelia Parker RA, who explores the transformation of material matter and function in her art.

Together they will join art historian Dr Ros Holmes (University of Oxford) to consider this provocative topic.

Ai Weiwei, Social Media and Online Activism

Tomorrow I’ll be delivering a public lecture at the Royal Academy on Ai Weiwei, Social Media and Online Activism. For anyone that’s interested in learning more, here is a description and a link to the event:

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Art historian Dr Ros Holmes discusses Ai Weiwei’s prolific use of social media and explores the artist’s creative, humorous – but also socially and politically critical – presence online.

Since 2005, Ai Weiwei has employed an array of digital media platforms as the primary means to communicate and interact with his followers, both within China and worldwide. From his extensive blogging activities to his prolific use of Twitter and Instagram, as well as his creation of satirical memes and online videos, audio recordings and photos, Ai has harnessed the power of the Internet as a creative tool for public expression and discussion.

In this talk, Dr Ros Holmes addresses the intertwining of Ai Weiwei’s online communications with his own practice to craft an artistic mode of expression that very cleverly exposes the (often incredulous) contradictions of contemporary China, and the absurdities of institutional power. She also explores how the above methodologies have affected his artistic impact, with young artists both celebrating and contesting his practice.

Doors open at 2.30pm, no admittance will be granted for latecomers after 3pm. If you do not arrive before 3pm, your ticket will be released at that time to those waiting for returned tickets.

Ai Weiwei: A Chinese Artist Abroad

Ai Weiwei in his studio in Beijing, taken in April 2015 Photo (c) Harry Pearce/Pentagram, 2015

Ai Weiwei in his studio in Beijing, taken in April 2015 Photo (c) Harry Pearce/Pentagram, 2015

Tomorrow, Ai Weiwei’s solo exhibition at the Royal Academy will finally open to the public. The media response to the exhibition and initial reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, with The Guardian hailing it as ‘momentous and moving‘. ‘The exhibition is powerful and poignant and handsome‘ writes Will Gompertz at the BBC, while the Telegraph noted that it was ‘the first real opportunity to judge Ai Weiwei’s work as art rather than as appendage to some news story.’ Ai himself has of course been relentlessly documenting his day to day encounters and high profile press events (including Thursday’s 8 mile walk across London with Anish Kapoor in solidarity with refugees) on his instagram account and twitter feed. As to my own thoughts on the exhibition, I’ve included my piece for Apollo Magazine below along with some photographs of the opening and preview which I was able to attend on Tuesday evening. I’ll also be delivering a public lecture at the Royal Academy on the 10th October on ‘Ai Weiwei, Social Media and Online activism’, the lecture is open to the public and tickets are free so I’m looking forward to sharing my research on how Ai’s practice intersects with his online presence. Continue reading

Ai Weiwei, amnesty and digital tributes


Earlier this week it was announced that Ai Weiwei and Joan Baez have been named as co-recipients of Amnesty International’s 2015  “良心大使” ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ award, the highest honour from the international human rights organisation which is bestowed upon figures “who have shown exceptional leadership in the fight for human rights, through their life and work.”

In a press release issued by Amnesty, Salil Shetty, Secretary General of the organisation is quoted as saying: “The Ambassador of Conscience Award is a celebration of those unique individuals who have used their talents to inspire many others to take injustice personally. That is why both Joan Baez and Ai Weiwei make such worthy recipients; they are an inspiration to thousands more human rights activists, from across Asia to America and beyond.” Adding specifically in relation to Ai’s nomination that: “through his work Ai Weiwei reminds us that the right of every individual to express their self must be protected, not just for the sake of society, but also for art and humanity.” Continue reading

The dividing point between ‘zombie social activism’ and artistic mobilisation

In an article that appeared recently on artnet news, Daria Daniel asked Is a new artistic activism emerging via social media and forms of public protest? The article focuses on international art groups who have created works in response to recent social and political crises, from a collective of Mexican artists who posed naked in public spaces to demonstrate against recent student killings to Titus Kaphar and Hank Willis Thomas’ artistic reaction to the Ferguson protests as well as the outpouring of political cartoons and visual tributes which emerged following the Charlie Hebdo Attacks.

Titus Kaphar Yet Another Fight for Rememberance .  Photo:

Titus Kaphar, ‘Yet Another Fight for Remembrance’

Illustration by graphic designer Lucille Clerc.  Photo:

Illustration by graphic designer Lucille Clerc.


Continue reading