In this installation, 126 large white and earth-tone jars are arranged in rows on the ground. Each jar has a narrow circular neck and opening, a nearly spherical body, and two small handles on the sides. The earth-tone jars feature dark brown symmetrical decorative patterns, which are formed by thick lines and shapes. These earthenware storage jars date to the Chinese Neolithic period. White paint was used to thoroughly coat about one quarter of the jars, removing the distinctive colour and marks of the clay and mineral pigments, giving a sense of newness. In the 1990s, Ai Weiwei began using Chinese historical artefacts in his work. He dropped a Han-dynasty urn so that it would break into pieces, dipped vessels into coloured paint, and applied the Coca-Cola logo to vases. By displaying, adapting, and destroying historical artefacts, Ai reinstates, transforms, and also questions the value placed on objects, in a criticism of both politics and tradition. Ai’s wide range of work encompasses architecture, writing, installation, and film.
Ai Weiwei (born 1957, Beijing) graduated from Parsons School of Design at The New School in New York in 1993. He is an artist and social activist whose work encompasses sculpture, installation, photography, film, architecture, curation, and social criticism. Ai lives and works in Cambridge.