10.ilb - 15.09 bis 26.10.10 - Focus Osteuropa
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Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei’s installations “4851” and “Nian” (En.: “Remembrance”) exhibit a list of 4,851 and 5,206 names of dead schoolchildren who were killed during the great earthquake in Szechwan in the year 2008 when school buildings collapsed because they did not comply with building regulations. The list of children’s names was compiled by the private initiative “Against Forgetting” which was set up by Ai Weiwei. This group was harassed by the authorities and several activists went to jail. The list is names emanates the orderliness, uniformity and completeness of the archive. Visitors also hear the names on the list being read out loud by many voices, one after the other. Ai Weiwei used the Internet on the eve of the second anniversary of the earthquake to call for the names to be read out. The reading is reminiscent of the traditional Chinese burial rite “calling the souls of the dead”. The living stand on an elevation or on a roof and call the names of the dead so that their souls can find their place in the afterlife. The Chinese character “Nian” also bears the connotation of “reading aloud”, “to miss” and “to commemorate”. Ai Weiwei’s work “Nian” is therefore a ceremony of the passage from life into death. “Calling” the dead honours them, and pays them our last and humble respect.

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Liu Xia

Liu Xia works with very simple resources in her photography – an old Russian twin-lens reflex camera and black & white roll films that she develops in her own dark room. Her view through the object lens focuses on no less elementary objects: a group of small dolls from Brazil, gifts from a friend that she describes as “the ugly babies”. Liu Xia, the wife of imprisoned Nobel peace Prize Laureate, Liu Xiaobo, adds simple props such as a bird’s cage, a cigarette butt, tea candles, scraps of fabric, piles of books, a preserving jar, a few flowers. She captures these scenarios on film without any special effects - apart from the occasional double exposure. Sometimes, but only seldom, does she carry the dolls outdoors. “The dolls do not have life, but they have freedom. Liu Xia has a life, but no freedom. She has been separated from her husband for many years and, in the past, she was also palced under house arrest with him. As such, the dolls – which emanate freedom – leave their traces in her photos. The beauty of nature remains far from the photographer. This is certainly regrettable, but that is the way it is. Her love does not bear any fruit by travelling to and from prison, and so her photography reveals the intense sense of sympathy a woman feels for the dolls.” (Liao Yiwu)

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Tsering Dorjee

The exhibition begins with forty documentary photos from Tibetan photographer Tsering Dorjee (1937–1991). These pictures bring light into a period of history that was sealed off from the world behind “walls”, and they document the attempts of the Communist regime to subject Tibet to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Tsering Dorjee has left behind more than four hundred photographs, the negatives of which were discovered by his daughter, the poet Tsering Woeser, after decades of lying forgotten in a corner. It is thanks to her years of efforts that the events and people who are the photos' motifs could be identified, thus making it possible to maintain the individual and collective remembrance of the past. This is especially important with regards to the “Cultural Revolution” in Tibet, because there are hardly any written and, until the discovery of Tsering Dorjee’s photos, hardly any visual documents of it.

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Meng Huang

Since 2004, Meng Huang has been painting the local landscapes that are familiar to him. The special feature of his landscape painting lies in the reserved use of colour. The artist uses only two tones – black and white. This reminds us on the one hand of the artistic concept of traditional Chinese ink painting and, on the other hand, of the severity and monotony of a geological map, thus transforming landscape painting into a topographical survey. The work being shown here – “Dam” – is a painting in 8 sections, over 17 metres long, a panorama of the Banqiao Dam in the regional seat, Biyang, in Henan Province. The painting automatically calls to mind in the Chinese onlooker the occasion when the dam burst on 8 August 1975. This was the world's most serious dam disaster to date. Caused by strong rain during a storm, the main dam and 56 connected dams gave way. The Chinese government guards the technical causes and the statistics of this natural catastrophe like a state secret. The estimated number of casualties has been placed between 23,000 and 230,000 people.

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