AAH-194 Visual Culture in Communist China

A Union College Art History Course, Spring 2023

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei is a contemporary artist working in the fields of architecture, design, exhibition planning, and publishing. Ai is well known for working on the “bird’s nest” that was built for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. He started off with architectural projects, but transitioned to more installations that focussed on the importance of showcasing human life. When the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake struck killing around 5,000 children, Ai wanted to shine light on the situation and began creating artwork that explored human rights issues. One of Ai’s first exhibitions titled, According to What?, focuses on the political and historical context of China and how the rest of the world can find common ground using their own context. Ai Weiwei approaches contemporary art by centering attention on the context instead of the concept. Ai deemed it important for the viewers to understand where the artist was coming from or going through when the artwork was formed. 

Works Cited

Ai Weiwei. According to What? Prestel Verlag, 2012.


Cai Guo-Qiang Biography


Zhan Wang

1 Comment

  1. Sheri Lullo

    Yes, there are so many themes that he covers–human rights and history are key. A lot of his work is about information gathering, he utilizes people to help him make works, or asks the public to contribute to his ideas. This is a very rich subject–I like this idea of delving into the context more then the concept.
    Also, make sure to note when Ai Weiwei was born and give a bit more info about his biography for your final project. Ai Weiwei’s father was the famous poet Ai Qing, who was active in the early Communist years. There is activist blood in his family!

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