Leading off this week with Ai Weiwei displaying some recent Ginsberg materials. We haven’t written of Ai Weiwei for some time (tho’ back in 2011, we were very much monitoring his situation (see, for example, here, here, here and here). The young artist, as is now well-known, struck up a crucial friendship-mentor relationship with Allen, during his period living in New York (New York’s East Village) in the middle-to-late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
His outspoken (unbowed and fearless) criticism of the Chinese government led to enforced incarceration and an 81-day jail sentence in 2011 on trumped-up charges of tax-evasion. It was a bungled attempt to silence him, which had only the opposite effect – He became, and is now, without doubt, the most famous (high profile) Chinese artist on the international stage. As a political activist, if anything, it strengthened him. His resolve, as many have noticed, is, (and continues to be), nothing short of heroic. To cite the title of Alison Klayman’s 2012 documentary about him – Ai Weiwei – Never Sorry
His incarceration, (amongst other things), he utilized, as raw material for his art.
Currently in the 12th century cathedral in the fortfied city of Cuena in Spain (as part of the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes remembrances), his installation, S.A.C.R.E.D (originally premiered at the Venice Biennale in 2013) ironically revisits that occasion.
More recent work has been fixed strongly on the current refugee crisis (Earlier this year, he set up a studio on the Greek island of Lesvos, and is currently working on making a documentary about this subject (tentative title “The Human Flow”).
In Berlin a few months back, he mounted a controversial installation fixing 14,000 discarded life-jackets gathered from the island to the columns of the Konzerthaus (timed for the opening of the Berlin Film Festival) to highlight the refugees plight.
This summer, in Austria, in Vienna, on the ornate pool on the south side of the baroque Belvedere Palace, he’s making a similarly audacious gesture – “F-lotus” – “1005 worn life-jackets resting like lotus blossoms and composed to form a lower-case letter “F” – “F” standing precisely for.. what? – Well, you can probably guess! – (that installation is up until November the 20th)
And, opening September 23 at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence – “Reframe” – 22 large rubber inflatable lifeboats attached to the windows of the Palazzo Strozzi’s facade – “This powerful comment on the desperate plight of the refugees who risk their lives to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean is representative of the overall theme of the exhibition – the artist hopes to raise awareness about our contemporary international humanitarian crisis..”..”The whole of the Palazzo, both inside and out, will be transformed by his multi-disciplinary art”.
Alison Flood‘s illuminating article in The Guardian last week about Andrew Lees‘ new book – Mentored By A Madman – The William Burroughs Experiment – “How William Burroughs’ drug experiments helped neurological research” is well worth reading
– “Sixty years after William S Burroughs journeyed into the South American rainforests and took the hallucinogenic infusion, yage, the respected neuroscientist, Andrew Lees has written a memoir telling how the Beat legend inspired his own trip to the Amazon, where he experimented on himself with the potion to further his medical research into Parkinson’s Disease..”
Burroughs is also the focus of Kaleem Aftab‘s twin-review in the London Independent of two movies now playing in London – Howard Brookner’s 1983 Burroughs – The Movie (“one of the most intimate and intriguing portraits of the iconic author”) and Aaron Brookner (his nephew)’s Uncle Howard. Brookner, the younger, is quoted:
“I think people who are into Burroughs and (that) film will love Uncle Howard. I have had lots of people who know nothing about Burroughs that have walked away with a lot from Uncle Howard. In a way they (the two films) are similar because Burroughs is about Burroughs but also about the time in New York and what is going on, and my film, if you will, is about New York, but it goes deeper and beyond as it’s about the whole of the ‘Eighties.”