Historical Photographers: Ai Weiwei

In the past our focus on photographers have been big names from the past. Today’s entry focuses on a contemporary photographer, the Chinese photographer Ai Weiwei. Weiwei is not only a photographer, he is a political activist who has been highly critical of the Chinese government and has dedicated much of his coverage to things the government would prefer be left unmentioned. In October 2011, ArtReview named him in their annual Power 100 list.

Weiwei began his photography career as a student at the Beijing Film Academy in 1978. That same year he founded the avant garde art group “Stars” with Ma Desheng, Wang Keping, Huang Rui, Li Shuang, Zhong Acheng and Qu Leilei. Though the group disbanded in 1983, he has continued to provide follow-up coverage with The Stars: Ten Years in 1989 and 2007: Origin Point. In the early 1980s, he lived in New York and attended Parsons School of Design and at the Art Students League of New York. His art focused mostly on modifying ready-made objects. His works are heavily influenced by the avant garde school and have been featured in many galleries and exhibitions around the world. His preferred method is to take common, everyday objects and arrange them in fanciful ways to create a work of art from the mundane. For example, his exhibit Ai Weiwei: According to What? which condemned the Chinese government’s response to the 2008 earthquake that killed many school children, featured a snake made out of matching backpacks.

He is currently the artistic director at the China Art Archives & Warehouse which he co-founded in 1997. This endeavor focuses on contemporary and experimental art and is located in Beijing. The building housing it was designed by Weiwei who has a keen interest in architecture as well as photography.

More coverage of this contemporary artist and photographer, as well as some of his work, can be found at ThinkProgress.

— da Bird