Renowned Chinese contemporary artist and activist, Ai Weiwei, has been described as the most influential and important contemporary artist of our time. This rise to stardom however, was not without controversy and destruction in his path. In 1995, Weiwei produced the artwork, Dropping a Dynasty Urn. As the title suggests, the artwork consisted of Weiwei purposely dropping an antique Neolithic Chinese vase from a height, smashing into pieces as it hit the ground. The provocative statement underscored the disposability in contemporary China of signs and symbols of the past, displaced by a new consumer aesthetic of cheap abundance. Weiwei’s artistic practice and social commentary continued to resonate concepts of liberal thinking and individualism – a deep desire for a civil society. As a result, Weiwei was mysteriously detained, placed under house arrest and fined for defacement of the Chinese government, and was deemed a ‘radical’.
‘Subject to Ruin’ is a contemporary art exhibition that not only responds to facets of destruction, degradation and disaster in everyday society, it is a platform for reflection, experimentation and free speech with reference to actions of awareness and a need for change. The exhibition looks to make contemporary art accessible by inviting artists and audiences to question, discuss and deconstruct artworks (both literally and metaphorically) through a comprehensive engagement with the temporality of materials and process; whether that be meticulous and calculated, or spontaneous and reactive.
Despite the novelty of wreckage and havoc, the selected artworks consist of many layers of complex meaning which may be read in various ways and are overtly, or covertly, critical of social rules and settings of our past, present and future. The notion of ‘ruin’ suggests that following a process of decay and deconstruction, not all is lost – the remains that are left over signify both despair and hope. ‘Subject to Ruin’ is not a display of a dystopian view, but recognition of destruction as necessary for growth and progress.
Artists include: Abdullah M.I. Syed, Ash Keating, Beth Dillon, Ella Barclay, Eric Demetriou, Erin Coates, Kate Just, Katherine Corcoran, Khaled Sabsabi, Lisa Bowen, Mathieu Gallois, Rachel Park, Ray Harris and Will Coles.
Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre
24 May to 6 July 2014
Abdullah M.I. Syed, Soft Target: Freedom Tower from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York, 2014, UV Inkjet Print + DIASEC 127 x 457cm and 51 x 188cm (Triptych).
Snapshot by Christine Navin
Courtesy the artist