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. If I were a developer I would be looking at the Fountain Square and Fletcher Place neighborhoods instead of Broad Ripple. I would avoid the dysfunctional BRVA with all of their headaches. It's like deciding between a Blackberry or an iPhone 5s smartphone. BR is greatly in need of updates. It has become stale and outdated. Whereas Fountain Square, Fletcher Place and Mass Ave have become the "new" Broad Ripples. Every time I see people on the strip in BR on the weekend I want to ask them, "How is it you are not familiar with Fountain Square or Mass Ave? You have choices and you choose BR?" Long vacant storefronts like the old Scholar's Inn Bake House and ZA, both on prominent corners, hurt the village's image. Many business on the strip could use updated facades. Cigarette butt covered sidewalks and graffiti covered walls don't help either. The whole strip just looks like it needs to be power washed. I know there is more to the BRV than the 700-1100 blocks of Broad Ripple Ave, but that is what people see when they think of BR. It will always be a nice place live, but is quickly becoming a not-so-nice place to visit.

  2. I sure hope so and would gladly join a law suit against them. They flat out rob people and their little punk scam artist telephone losers actually enjoy it. I would love to run into one of them some day!!

  3. Biggest scam ever!! Took 307 out of my bank ac count. Never received a single call! They prey on new small business and flat out rob them! Do not sign up with these thieves. I filed a complaint with the ftc. I suggest doing the same ic they robbed you too.

  4. Woohoo! We're #200!!! Absolutely disgusting. Bring on the congestion. Indianapolis NEEDS it.

  5. So Westfield invested about $30M in developing Grand Park and attendance to date is good enough that local hotel can't meet the demand. Carmel invested $180M in the Palladium - which generates zero hotel demand for its casino acts. Which Mayor made the better decision?

ADVERTISEMENT