Tag Archives: Ai Weiwei

Art and the Political Message: Ai Weiwei and Peter Kennard

by Ann Jones

Ai Weiwei's ‘Surveillance Camera’ installed at the Lisson Gallery; Rirkrit Tiravanija’s banner outside neugerriemschneider in Berlin.

In the film that accompanied his Sunflower Seeds installation in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, Ai Weiwei says that he wants “people who don’t understand art to understand what I am doing”. In his recent book @earth, Peter Kennard has attempted communication that is purely visual: barring the title, the book – including both index and contents page – is without words; attempting to find a more universal visual language and create a book that needs no translation. Seeing these two things in fairly quick succession made me start to think about the degree to which art relies on verbal language – be it a title or a longer explanatory text – to help get the message across. Is visual language alone ever enough, and to what extent is it culturally specific?

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