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Ai Wei Whoops!
March 5, 2014 6:21 AM   Subscribe

Ai WeiWei, the Chinese contemporary artist and cultural critic, finds that imitation is the greatest form of flattery when Maximo Caminero smashes one of his installations (The art world is not impressed). Now, you too can follow in these illustrious footsteps with Ai Wei Whoops!
posted by chainsofreedom (27 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I just don't understand this.

I mean, I understand civil disobedience. I think I understand protesting by destroying public property (at least, under certain circumstances; maybe not all of them). And I understand being frustrated that a business is not acting in a way you think is correct for the market that the business is serving, and wanting to protest that.

What I don't understand is damaging the work of an artist who has nothing to do with any of that. Ai WeiWei's art installation wasn't public property. To my knowledge, he has nothing to do with the gallery's decision to showcase only international artists.

What was accomplished here, other than the fact that Caminero wound up looking like an ass?


I don't understand modern art sometimes.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:28 AM on March 5


I just don't understand this.

Very likely that it wasn't a rational act.
posted by Brian B. at 6:33 AM on March 5


I like Weiwei's super chill reaction to it:

"I don't really care much and actually my work is often damaged in different shows, because it's fragile, so normally I don't take these things too highly. Damage is damage, you know. If they have insurance, maybe it will be covered."
posted by Think_Long at 6:36 AM on March 5 [7 favorites]


Where did the "$1MM vase" number come from?

Also, I beleive I saw a quote from WeiWei (though I can't find it now) where he was careful to point out that he owned the artifact that he smashed, whereas Caminero was destroying someone else's property.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 6:36 AM on March 5


Also, here's what I thought was the best part of the museum's WeiWei installation.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 6:39 AM on March 5


Ai Wei Whoops!

That virtual gallery has very negligent security.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:43 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


The best* thing about this is that this asshat was "protesting" in the name of xenophobia.

*not really the best
posted by sparklemotion at 6:59 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


There are some artists raising money for his defense by donating their own works.
posted by skycrashesdown at 7:09 AM on March 5




For those who didn't read the links and are horrified at seemingly arbitrary the destruction of art, it might be worth noting that one of Weiwei's own works of art is a photograph of him deliberately dropping a Ming vase - in fact that photo is in the background of the picture of Caminero's action in the second link - so there is a conceptual context to the whole thing.
posted by aught at 7:21 AM on March 5


Eeesh.

In his emailed apology, Mr. Caminero told Mr. Wei that he shared the Chinese artist’s battles “as though they were my own.”

“Breaking the vase signifies breaking the chains that prevent you from leaving the prison in which you find yourself,” Mr. Caminero wrote. “You were the vase in my hands, and I was the silent voice of the artists of Miami.”

No. Just... no. I'm not particularly social justicey. I'm generally very suspect of people who shout "privilege" in an attempt to discount the views of folks who happened to end up in the majority. I'll also admit that there's a lot about art that I don't "get".

But no, white (enough) dude from Miami -- you don't share Ai Wei Wei's battles -- there's a gallery that has chosen not to show your work, you're not being put into prison for creating it in the first place.

I'm trying very hard to see how this guy is any better than the racists who whine about affirmative action.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:22 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Also, I beleive I saw a quote from WeiWei (though I can't find it now) where he was careful to point out that he owned the artifact that he smashed, whereas Caminero was destroying someone else's property.

WeiWei can claim to own the artefacts he destroys, but ownership of two-thousand-year-old art comes with some responsibilities, like perhaps not covering it with bright paint or dramatically destroying it for your own work. I'm not comfortable with the idea that we have the right to destroy art just because we can afford to buy it.

The New Republic article on this:
"Ai Weiwei is by no means the only artist who has built a reputation on a belief in the death of the original and even the destruction of the original but now expects his work to be accorded the respect due to old-fashioned originals."
Caminero might have had terrible, confused reasons for breaking WeiWei's vase, but criticising him without levelling some of the same towards the latter seems remarkably selective.
posted by distorte at 7:30 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


Ai Weiwei destroyed and defaced ancient artworks in a protest against the Chinese government's destruction of artifacts of China's ancient culture, demanding to know why it was acceptable for the government to do something on a large scale but shocking when he did it on a small scale. This guy destroyed a modern artwork because he was mad that his work wasn't chosen to be shown. Boo fucking hoo.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:38 AM on March 5 [10 favorites]


It's a quagmire alright. Which is worse: destroying one irreplaceable piece of modern art for shit reasons or twenty irreplaceable pieces of ancient art for noble reasons?
posted by distorte at 7:50 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


(I mean obviously I think Caminero's act is worse but the ground still feels pretty boggy.)
posted by distorte at 7:53 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


The Whoops site made me laugh. Out loud!
posted by surplus at 7:57 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


The best* thing about this is that this asshat was "protesting" in the name of xenophobia.

I don't think it was about xenophobia. I didn't get the impression he has an issue with the work, or having foreign art in the museum at all. He's mad at the gallery for not having what he considers enough space for local Miami artists--which likely means "waaah they won't show my stuff!" Now, why you go and smash a random guy's art because you're mad at the gallery is another question altogether. Who is hurt by this act? Not the gallery.
posted by Hoopo at 8:23 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


“We do not support the act, but we support the intention,” said Danilo Gonzalez, a painter and sculptor who said he spoke for many of his fellow artists.

Um, dude, the guy is being punished for his act, not for his intentions. He wouldn't face prosecution if he'd written a letter to the editor. Heck, he probably wouldn't face prosecution (or any very serious penalty) if he'd chained himself to some fixture in the gallery and invited reporters or even splashed paint about in the lobby or something. There are lots of ways he could have created a media shitstorm to bring attention to his cause without, you know, destroying a work of art by another artist.
posted by yoink at 9:29 AM on March 5


When's Maximo's next exhibition? I'll bring the sledgehammer, who wants to bring the urine? I love modern art!
posted by ReeMonster at 10:39 AM on March 5


Who is hurt by this act? Not the gallery.

It's not Ai Wei Wei either. It seems to be mainly the people in this thread.
posted by Dr. Send at 11:54 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


it might be worth noting that one of Weiwei's own works of art is a photograph of him deliberately dropping a Ming vase

Incorrect. That's a neolithic vase he's smashing.

I saw this show in person and I was horrified. It has all of the following and more: Video of Ai Wei Wei smashing a neolithic vase. Neolithic vases that have been dipped in cheap acrylic paint. Neolithic vases with the Coca-Cola logo painted on them. Plastic boxes containing powdered neolithic vases. As someone with an interest in history I was seeing red.

It took me half an hour to calm down enough to see what Ai Wei Wei was trying to do. In another part of the exhibit there was a handmade large pot he'd made in a traditional (Ming?) style, plain white on the outside with a lavishly detailed blue-on-white scene inside. There was a second one right next to it -- he'd made two. It started dawning on me that the point of the exhibit as a whole was to call into question the way we romanticize ancient artifacts. Something we treat as an art object would have been to its original creator a mass-produced consumer good. We should protect and preserve ancient artifacts, and watching someone destroy one should be shocking, but we should not let that preservationist instinct get in the way of seeing them for what they are.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:00 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]


distorte: "It's a quagmire alright."

Uhm... no, it's not? The guy who did it didn't even understand the work, its provenance, or significance. It was an admitted act of self promotion that is only superficially connected to Ai's work. Caminero's explaination doesn't hold up under the barest of scrutiny.

The New Replublic blog post is a mess, written by someone who didn't bother to find out what the vase dropping was actually about. He straight makes shit up--Ai himself has at no point expressed that he "expects his work to be accorded the respect due to old-fashioned originals". Ai's actual response has already been quoted in this thread: a big old 'meh'.
posted by danny the boy at 3:27 PM on March 5


A friend bought a very modest house that had been owned by the installations manager of a museum. My friend could not figure out why just one of the two panes of glass was broken in the multi-window garage service door.
He was told by the old owner that Ai came by for the after party with a bunch of interns and they ate tacos and drank tequila and shot BB guns at targets pasted on the garage. Those windows were collateral damage.

And yes, the house is in the city on a tiny lot.

So maybe a little destruction here and there is worth it in the name of a good time?
posted by littlewater at 8:59 PM on March 5


Caminero's explaination doesn't hold up under the barest of scrutiny.

I never suggested it did, nor defended him even slightly.
posted by distorte at 12:43 AM on March 6


Something we treat as an art object would have been to its original creator a mass-produced consumer good.

Death of the author. We invest objects with meaning all the time: a mass-produced memento from an old flame is worth more to you than the same object from a store. Even though the vase was a mass-produced consumer good, its meaning is transformed through thousands of years because it connects us to the past, especially when we don't have a wealth of information about the era.
posted by ersatz at 6:53 AM on March 6






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