Ai Weiwei – Human Rights Dissident – Environmentalist?

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has mounted 1200 bicycles in a magnificent floor to ceiling installation as part of a solo exhibition in Taipei.

The artist likely has no environmental statement to make with this installation, but these days it is hard to look at so many bicycles without being put in mind of the energy and transport questions that so many people are working to resolve. Can we really build a successful energy policy on a huge installation of renewables just like this huge installation of bicycles? Or is the mountain too high to climb? Is talk about moving to a solely renewable energy policy simply the pipe dream of impractical idealists?

Ai Weiwei has gained global fame for his dissident attitude to Chinese authorities. This has earned him persecution by the authorities, destruction of his studios, charges of owing multimillion dollars to the Chinese tax authorities and recurrent arrests and periods of disappearance. The bicycle installation led me to look for any of the artist’s works that addressed environmental issues directly.

An installation entitled “Trees” & “Rocks” (image below) has been interpreted by some to be an allusion to the environmental damage being caused by China’s rapid rate of development. Others, have interpreted the work as the simple re-creation of a meditative space.

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