Revelator was pretty excited when we discovered the talented Ai Weiwei would have two of his most powerful installations displayed in Austin. So, you can imagine how honored we were when The Contemporary Austin invited us to document the process and execution of the work in our city. Before we jump into our approach, let’s cover a little background. Ai Weiwei is a contemporary Chinese artist and a political activist. As a political activist, he has been highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government’s stance on democracy and human rights. He has investigated government corruption and cover-ups, in particular the Sichuan schools corruption scandal following the collapse of “tofu-dreg schools” in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In 2011, following his arrest at Beijing Capital International Airport on 3 April, he was held for 81 days without any official charges being filed; officials alluded to their allegations of “economic crimes.”
Our friends at The Contemporary Austin filled us in on even more background about the artist. His father, the poet Ai Qing, was the target of widespread government suppression of radical intellectuals leading up to and during the Cultural Revolution in the 60s and 70s. With his wife, the poet Gao Ying, and young child, Ai Qing , they were sent to labor in exile in remote areas of Manchuria, the western region of Xinjiang, and finally to the Gobi Desert in China, where Ai Weiwei spent his childhood. Today, Ai’s gestures—not only via art objects, but through his actions, performative interventions, collaborations, writings, films, and spoken words—continue this legacy.
The Contemporary Austin asked us to document the installation and final form of two different Ai Weiwei exhibits in Austin. The two-site exhibition is part of The Contemporary Austin’s Museum Without Walls program, which brings works of art out into the community. It also represents the museum’s second public art collaboration with Waller Creek Conservancy. For our creative approach to the video production of this exciting project, we knew that an event like this deserves a video that conveys that significance.
We decided that using a combination of curator interviews, footage of sculpture installation, and highlights from the final installation view of the work, we would create an engaging and aesthetically complementary video that does justice to the incredible art. Our aim was to put together a small, doc-style film crew that would be nimble enough to capture all the key moments of each event. We knew that cranes, installation crews, and a multi-disciplinary organization like the Contemporary can’t wait around for a top-heavy production crew to capture another take of the crane installation!
For the tone of the piece, we knew the key would be to capture expansive work of the installation process for these high profile works. We wanted to build anticipation through interviews and construction, and end with a sweeping view and critical examination of each piece of artwork. It was an exciting prospect to see a sculpture being erected on Town Lake with the Austin skyline behind it. Our desire was to showcase the unique nature of Ai Weiwei’s work and set it against the specific identity of Austin.
The two-part installation of Ai Weiwei’s works is part of The Contemporary Austin’s Museum Without Walls program. The exciting program is an initiative that extends the museum’s collection and programming out into the community via partnering with other parks and organizations—and the museum’s ongoing collaboration with Waller Creek Conservancy. The two works that our documentary cover are Forever Bicycles, 2014, and Iron Tree Trunk, 2015. Forever Bicycles, 2014, is on long-term view at the Waller Creek Delta. Iron Tree Trunk, 2015 is on display at the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria. We’re also really excited to share that, in addition to the exhibition, the museum will be partnering with the Austin Film Society on a film series curated by the artist in November.
It might be unusual for video production company to get so excited about contemporary art, but we’re honored to be a part of this new exhibit in Austin. We’re really fortunate to have such a great client like The Contemporary Austin, and can’t overstate how grateful we are to be included in the installation of such amazing work in our home city. We encourage you to visit The Contemporary Austin at their Jones Center location, as well as Laguna Gloria, to see the exciting and varied work the currently have on display from a variety of contemporary artists. Check back soon for more exciting news about another project currently in production with The Contemporary!