As I mentioned in my previous blog I was fortunate to arrive at Alcatraz, as a tourist not resident, at the same time that Ai Weiwei was holding an exhibition – @large. The exhibition sets about raising questions about freedom of expression and human rights and “the artworks directly and imaginatively address the situation of people around the world who have been deprived of their freedom for speaking out about their beliefs.” There were various instalments across the island using different mediums to convey his message.
In one room there were folders that contained information about individuals from around the world who are (or have been) detained for standing up for their beliefs in freedom. There are also racks that contain postcards that are pre addressed to each of these people and feature a picture of a bird or plant from the country in which they are detained. Visitors are free to take the postcards and write to whichever individual they identify with. The postcards are then sent to them. The idea is to let them know that while they suffer in isolation they can be heartened to know that people are standing behind them and supporting them in what they believe.
In the new industries building there were images of those imprisoned made from Lego and laid out across the floor. It really made it hit home about how many people are held hostage by their countries for freedoms that we take for granted on a daily basis.
Having such a renowned artist who is not allowed to leave China host such a poignant exhibition in such an iconic location works so amazingly well and really pushes the message of freedom. I am so lucky that my trip has coincided with such an event.
Unfortunately my phone battery was running a low and actually died (I forgot to charge it last night), but I did manage to capture some of the work and have included them below.