@LARGE, Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz
Artist Ai Weiwei is a political prisoner under house arrest in Beijing. Because he is not permitted to travel outside China, he helped install this extraordinary exhibit from there. He says, “When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill.” In this case it landed on our windowsill at Alcatraz. The exhibit is installed in parts of the former prison that have never before been open to visitors. By demand of the artist, there is no additional charge to see this show. However, a guided tour is an additional $20 fee and is available only on the first trip of the day at 8:45 a.m. These reserved tickets are not available through Alcatraz Cruises; reservation information. The show runs through April 26, 2015.
These are the exhibit sites:
Building 64, at the landing.
View an introductory video about the exhibition and also some video works by Ai Weiwei.
1. New Industries Building
Inmates who had earned the privilege were permitted to work here for money or to earn time off of their sentence.
With Wind: This airy exhibit centers on a traditional Chinese dragon kite made from kites. The dragon’s face has Twitter-bird eyes and @aiww eyebrows.
Trace: Constructed by volunteers from more than one million LEGO bricks and resembling needlepoint, these portraits depict more than 175 political prisoners from around the world.
While here, select one person. Then look him up in the book provided, read his story, and remember his name for later. My person was Tan Zuoren. His biography reads, “Convicted of subversion of state power, Tan is a writer and activist who had published articles online about the repression of the 1987 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protest, and investigated the deaths of thousands of children when their schools collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In 2009 he was sentenced to five years in prison. He was released in March 2014.”
Refraction: A separate entrance leads into the narrow Gun Gallery section, where a large sculpture depicts a bird’s wing in which the feathers represent Tibetan solar cookers.
2. Cellhouse—A Block
This is the only remaining section of the original military prison constructed in the early 1900s. The Birdman of Alcatraz, Robert Stroud, was moved permanently to a cell here because of his disruptive behavior.
Stay Tuned: This audio installation occurs inside twelve cells. It uses sound in the form of music, poetry, and spoken words—all from people who have been detained as political prisoners because of their creative expression of their beliefs.
●Arya Aramnejad: This Iranian singer performs “Ali Barkhiz” (“Ali, Rise”).
●Pussy Riot: The Russian feminist punk rock group performs "Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away (Punk Prayer)."
Illumination: In two psychiatric observation rooms you’ll hear the sound of Tibetan and Native American chanting, drawing connections between China and the U.S.
Blossom: Porcelain toilets, sinks, and bathtubs hold fragile, beautiful porcelain castings of flowers.
4. Cellhouse—Dining Hall
Yours Truly: Here you can write a postcard to your selected prisoner. Look him up in the books to determine which postcard picture you will find his mailing information on, secure a postcard, and write a message with words of hope.
When you are done, place it in the mail bin and it will be mailed. Free WiFi is also available here--a first on Alcatraz--so that you can post your experience to social media. Use #AiWeiWeiAlcatraz.
●The free exhibit brochure provides many insights, as does this webpage.
●“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” is an informative documentary about the artist and is worth seeing before your visit.
Every wonder why they call it the slammer?
More about Alcatraz.
More things to do in San Francisco
Way more things to do in San Francisco.
More ideas for exploring Northern California.
images and videos © 2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers