Chinese independent artist and activist Ai Weiwei has always sought to rediscover and rebuild the Chinese art tradition ever since it was largely snuffed out during China’s Cultural Revolution, and his endeavors have earned him no small amount of notoriety and disdain from the slowly changing government in the PRC. His latest installation, titled S.A.C.R.E.D, represents moments during Ai’s 81-day incarceration (allegedly for tax evasion) back in 2011. The acronym, which stands for (S)upper, (A)ccusers, (C)leansing, (R)itual, (E)ntropy and (D)oubt, is Ai Weiwei’s first direct artistic response to his imprisonment, fraught with the humiliation and anguish of being under surveillance during all aspects of his daily life including eating, bathing and sleeping. The six fiberglass and iron dioramas, each measuring 377 x 198 x 153 cm, are cramped and uncomfortably contained in unremarkable boxes on the floors of the open lofty surroundings of the Sant’Antonin Church where they are displayed, where viewers can peer inside through glass windows. S.A.C.R.E.D forms part of a larger exhibition by Ai called “Disposition,” which will be on display as part of Venice’s 55th International Art Exhibition. Because Ai Weiwei was forbidden from traveling to the opening of his show, his presence at the exhibition will be filled by his mother, Gao Ying.
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