A crystalline sculpture of 1200 suspended bicycles stretches from floor to ceiling at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, seats and pedals removed, the frames welded together into one massive structure. This installation is the work of artist Ai Weiwei as part of an exhibit entitled “Ai Weiwei, Absent.”
Named by the British magazine Art Review as the most powerful artist of 2011, Ai can’t even be present at his own art exhibition. Known for works that critique Chinese social change, Ai was detained in April as part of China’s crackdown on activists and is currently prohibited from leaving Beijing. In a pamphlet for the show, he writes that his inability to attend the show “is part of my art, my portfolio and my cultural state.”
Ai states that his ‘Forever Bicycles’ is “a moving abstract shape that symbolizes the way in which the social environment in China is changing.” Whether bicycles are a positive or negative symbol to the artist is unclear, but observers have their own theories, seeing messages of the power of the people, of independence, but also of facelessness and lack of personal identity in a Communist nation.
The exhibition, which includes other installations, photography, sculpture and videos by Ai, will be on display at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum until January 29, 2012.