From September 19th to December 13th the Royal Academy in London is hosting Ai Wei Wei’s first British retrospective. Ai Wei Wei became a “star artist” since he engaged with topics like human rights and freedom of speech in the contemporary China. Since then his public image has changed; it overshadowed the universal and collective value, which consistently have been characterising Ai Wei Wei’s work since the origin.
By means of Chinese artistic heritage, Ai Wei Wei articulates a particular artistic language, which is capable of expressing the intricacy of Chinese heritage and culture via new tectonic assemblages. Ai Wei Wei’s tectonic, indeed, encourages diversity. The works is not flat, as well as humanity doesn’t speak the same language; we all have different cultural heritages. Ai Wei Wei’s tectonic expresses such cultural intricacy. From stools to bicycles the singular value of each different piece triggers the metaphor of the world as an orchestra. The strength of such diversity is the cut, which normally is understood as the weakest part; in Ai Wei Wei’s sculptures the cut becomes the keystone. Ai Wei Wei’s tectonic tells stories about diversities.
On the other hand contemporary design is featured by smooth white objects. From architecture to products smooth surfaces and lines run through space with no sign of interruption. Nevertheless, as in Ai’s work, there is also an emergent field of design that is looking back at tectonic, from the material point of view. Stereotomy is the guideline to understand forms between the digital and the real.
Cultural tectonic is in favour of cultural diversity that coexists; cultural tectonic doesn’t apply the global ephemeral smoothness that saturates details.
If looking at our everyday, cultural diversity is a topic politics should engage with. In the midst of immigrant flows and the seek of new social, political and economical orders, it would be worth to look at Ai Wei Wei’s work to get some inspiration.