IBJOpinion

LOU'S VIEWS: Doing it Ai Weiwei's way

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

If you saw only the Ai Weiwei works in the lobby of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, you might jump to the erroneous conclusion that they were created by a whimsical artist, playfully making the familiar (bicycles, crabs) seem unusual.

See only the first wall of photographs—with the artist flipping the bird to the White House and Tiananmen Square—and you might assume this artist is all about anger. ae-colored-vases-03-15col.jpg But take in the entire exhibition and a more complex mind emerges. The fact that the works seem part of a puzzle makes “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” different from most other solo exhibits.

ae-map-of-china-01-15col.jpg Above: “Colored Vases” is among Ai Weiwei’s transformative works. Below: “Map of China” (Photos courtesy of Ai Weiwei)

It’s difficult to see his substantial wooden “Map of China” and “China Log” (both constructed from the wood of dismantled Qing Dynasty temples) as separate from the numerous photos along the walls that portray a complex, contemporary China.

And it’s even harder to separate the wall-covering “Names of the Student Earthquake Victims Found by the Citizens Investigation” from the work that lies before it: “Wenchuan Steel Rabar,” constructed from materials from the flimsily made schoolhouse where the listed students died. (The construction of the piece had profound political ramifications for the artist, including arrest.)

But why think of them as separate pieces? The joinery techniques that make “Grapes,” a combination of 40 wooden stools, so engaging is also on display in the simpler “Table with Two Legs on the Wall.” Those pieces connect with “Kippe,” which incorporates gymnastic parallel bars. And all flow into the exhibit-dominating “Moon Chest,” consisting of seven (out of 81) large hauli wood pieces whose positioning influences its interpretation. Enter the show and you enter a busy, creative, thoughtful, frustrated, angry, intense mind. 

Allow extra time if you want to sit through the just-under-an-hour film. The fact that you have to go through much of the exhibit before entering the screening room is both appropriate and telling. The layout gives you a chance to experience the work before the back story. It allows you to react to the creations, to some degree, before you get to the creator.

____________

Yes, the puppetry is staggering. And, yes, adults are likely to be reaching for the tissues. But the most remarkable thing about “War Horse” (which I saw with a busload of readers on the April 6 IBJ A&E Road Trip to Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center) is that it exists at all.

ae-warhorse-15col.jpg The intricate puppetry of the Tony-winning “War Horse.” (Photo/ Brinkhoff/Moegenburg)

Consider the pitch: OK, we want to make this play based on a children’s book told from the point of view of a horse. Yeah, kind of like “Black Beauty,” only it’s set during World War I so we have lots of carnage and overriding sadness about the human condition. The main character? The horse, of course—and it’ll be played by a puppet that needs three people to operate. At least, we think it does because we haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet. And, no, the horse doesn’t sing.”

Sound like a show you’d invest in? Remember, too, that this was before Stephen Spielberg offered his far more conventional cinematic take on the deceptively simple story.

But against all odds, on stage, “War Horse” became a triumph in London and New York. And I’d give primary credit not to a single artist but to a process. The National Theatre of Great Britain gave the show’s creators the time and care that typical commercial producers or even most regional theaters couldn’t dream of. In its road to the stage, “War Horse” was given time to stumble, to find its legs, to take the wrong turn and circle back.

The care is clear on stage, where horses (and a pesky goose) seem as alive as the human cast members, where the transitional music seems to emerge from the characters not from a composer, where big truths are played in intimate ways, and where the animals behave like animals, not as people in disguise.

The seemingly uncompromised tour—with a cast of dozens and its gloriously simplistic design intact—is even rarer when you consider how few non-musical Broadway productions hit the road these days.

Here’s hoping “War Horse” stays on its feet long enough to be part of the 2014/2015 Broadway in Indianapolis season.•

__________

This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. A couple of issues need some clarification especially since my name was on the list. I am not sure how this information was obtained and from where. For me, the amount was incorrect to begin with and the money does not come to me personally. I am guessing that the names listed are the Principal Investigators (individual responsible for the conduct of the trail) for the different pharmaceutical trials and not the entity which receives the checks. In my case, I participate in Phase II and Phase III trials which are required for new drug development. Your article should differentiate the amount of money received for consulting, for speaking fees, and for conduct of a clinical trial for new drug development. The lumping of all of these categories may give the reader a false impression of physicians just trying to get rich. The Sunshine Law may help to differentiate these categories in the future. The public should be aware that the Clinical Trial Industry could be a real economic driver for Indiana since these revenues supports jobs and new job creation. Nationally, this account for 10-20 billion which our State is missing out on to a large degree. Yes, new drug and technology development has gotten most of the attention (e.g. CTSI, BioCrossroads, etc.) However, serious money is being left on the table by not participating in the clinical trials to get those new drugs and medical devices on the market!!!! I guess that this is not sexy enough for academia.

  2. The address given for the Goldfish Swim Club is the Ace Hardware, is it closing?

  3. Out of state management and ownership. If Kite controlled it, everything would be leased. Of course, due to the roundabout, there is limited access to the south side of 116th now also. Just have to go down to the light.

  4. Hey smudge, You're opposed to arresting people for minor crimes? Sounds great! We should only focus on murders and such, right? Let's stand around and wait until someone shoots someone before we act. Whatever we do, we should never question anyone, frisk anyone, or arrest anyone unless they are actively engaged in shooting or stabbing. Very sound!

  5. You guys are being really rude to gays in the comments. (Not all of you, I presume). You need to stop it. Gays have just as much of a right to marry as straight people do. It's not fair how you guys are denying them equal rights. They're acting more human than you'll ever be. We obviously haven't matured since the bible was last updated. Hate the sin, not the sinner. You've all committed a sin at least once in your life. You've lied, you've stolen, etc. (Those are just possibilities). We should have a planet for people that support gay rights and a planet for people that don't. Then, gay people could get married without you bigots interfering with their love life. How would you feel if straights couldn't get married? How would you feel if teenagers were afraid to come out to their parents as straight? If straight people got hate everywhere they went? If straight people were afraid to go out in public, because they feared being judged? It's never going to happen at the rate society is going. You haven't seen the side of me where I act obscene. You're glad my inner demon hasn't been released. I would, but oh no, my comment would be removed because of my very strong emotions about this subject. I love gays, and love how they show their affection for each other. I just ADORE how a state is going to give same-sex couples a marriage license, then changes their mind. (I was obviously being sarcastic there). I just LOVE how society thinks gays are an abomination to our society. You're caring about marriage between two men or two women. That's a small thing. Just grow up, and let them marry. Let them live their lives. You can't make them change their sexuality. You can't make them change their lifestyle. In my opinion, gays are more than welcome to marry. Please, grow up and realize that people should be allowed to marry, even if it's same-sex marriage. You guys are saying that "the bible said gay marriage is wrong." Well, guess what else is wrong? Read Matthew:7 and you'll find out. (I am in no way breaking that. I am saying a fact). I'm stating that gays have just as much of a right to marry as straights do. (:

ADVERTISEMENT