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Ai Weiwei - According to What?

Last year, there was a special exhibit of Ai Weiwei at Art Gallery of Ontario. My girlfriend and a few friends were participating in one part of the exhibit, where they would read out the names of children who died in buildings that collapsed in an earthquake as a result of poor workmanship.


Likewise, other pieces of the exhibit were very politically charged and often spoke to issues related to current events in China. I found a few people who immediately burst into tears upon entering the exhibit, which I found a little hard to understand. It's one thing to be moved by something, but to be visibly upset by social injustice and show emotional vulnerability is something entirely different.


To be honest, I am not the biggest fan of contemporary art. Although I frequented National Gallery of Canada while I lived in Ottawa, the Contemporary Art section was my least visited of them all. More often than not, I find that artistic value is overshadowed by the messages that artists convey.


Ai Weiwei's exhibit was no exception. Many of his installations and photographs often had overlapping themes, which quickly grew old on me. Sure, I found it amazing that one could interpret most of his work as being symbolic of China's origins as a nation.


No longer are we in awe with an artist's techniques and imagination, but rather are more focused on interpreting messages behind each and every piece. As such, I feel that contemporary art is more of a medium that requires critical examination rather than pure appreciation.