Ai Weiwei

Technology rather than experience

It is not unknown news that artist Ai Weiwei is currently exhibiting a somewhat controversial body of work at the birthplace of Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace. Opening on 1st October.

However, it is not only the controversy of the work itself creating media interest, but how does a dissident, restricted from leaving China, install more than fifty artworks inside a stately home in Oxfordshire? Using modern 3D technology, Weiwei was able to install his works using a computer model created through meticulously laser-scanning the whole building. Through forming a virtual world, he was granted the access he needed to practically and theoretically produce artworks specific to the site itself.

Ai Weiwei

Image Courtesy of Blenheim Palace

Although there are some simple technologies used to enhance the practicality of exhibitions and creating art – for example the current use of the 3D printer – this drastic reliance on technology in order to even form and develop an idea, let alone producing and installing the work, seems unheard of.

it seems that the use of 3D technology such as this, is in a limbo between the extremities of both ideas

At the outset, this particular artistic method of working could be seen to criticise the artist as a craftsman. Not in the sense that Weiwei has not created work from his own ideas and in keeping with his body of work, but that through the development of reproductive techniques such as 3D technology, it could be said that the originality, or aura, of the works were questioned. Now, that is an extremely concise and basic analysis drawn from an out dated theory on aesthetics – imposed by traditional views of art – but in this case it is perhaps true that the artist’s method of working served as a kind of imagination and interpretation of the world. It becomes more than purely an additional resource and attains a role of central importance in the artistic creation – integral to the works themselves. These ideas would require a far more in depth exploration, and could even overlap into the use of digital art, editing techniques and even social media.

However, if you consider the history of the ready-made in art and it’s long tradition of anti-craftsmanship – albeit not necessarily current theory in terms of modern art – it seems that the use of 3D technology such as this, is in a limbo between the extremities of both ideas.

In a similar vein, exhibitions such as Henri Matisse’s Cut Outs have been produced into a live tour of the exhibition itself, broadcasted in some 200 cinemas around the UK and pulling in around 15,000 people. This will shortly be transformed into a film of Matisse Live which will be released in screening rooms around the world. In this case, virtual technology have been used primarily to enhance viewer participation beyond the gallery, but does this detract from the interpersonal elements of traditional art experiences?

It is interesting to note my position whilst writing about these ideas, for I have responded entirely to second hand media sources and videos of the exhibition and so have been unable to comment on the impacted physical experience I may have felt when viewing the exhibition. Ironically, you may say this point of view doesn’t allow me to consider the use of virtual technology whatsoever, for this is based entirely on the reliance of Internet technology itself. In a wider scope, it seems that the bigger question to consider is whether the use of the virtual lends itself not only as an alternative to the physical experience of art, but in the future, as a replacement.


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply