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Ai Weiwei. Documentary Film Series

This documentary film series features selected works by internationally recognized Chinese artist, filmmaker, thinker and activist Ai Weiwei (b. Beijing 1957). It has been organized to mark the exhibition ‘Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World’ at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (11 May–23 September, 2018) and to offer a context for the political realities that shape the conditions of this period.

Friday, June 1
6.30 pm: Human Flow, 2017, 144 min.
Various languages with Spanish subtitles. A&P New Films.
Directed by Ai Weiwei

Over 65 million people around the world have been forced from their homes to escape famine, climate change and war in the greatest human displacement since World War II. Human Flow gives a powerful visual expression to this massive human migration. The documentary elucidates both the staggering scale of the refugee crisis and its profoundly personal human impact.

Captured over the course of an eventful year in 23 countries, the film follows a chain of urgent human stories that stretches across the globe in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, Greece, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, and Turkey.

Saturday, June 2
4.30 pm: Disturbing the Peace, 2009, 79 min.
Chinese with Spanish subtitles. Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio.
Directed by Ai Weiwei

Disturbing the Peace is a documentary covering the days and events leading up to the writer and activist Tan Zuoren's trial in Chengdu on August 12, 2009. Tan is charged with “subversion of state power” for his writings on the 1989 Tiananmen Incident and for his investigation into the corruption that caused shoddily-built schoolhouses to collapse in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, causing massive student casualties.

Ai Weiwei traveled to Chengdu to testify on behalf of Tan Zuoren. However, he and his team were awoken in the middle of the night and their rooms were raided. During the raid, Ai was beaten and prevented from attending the trial. Ai’s assistant is also arrested and secretly detained.

The documentary captures Ai’s attempt to discover the whereabouts of his assistant while navigating the bureaucracy of the Chinese law enforcement organ.

6.30 pm: So Sorry, 2011, 54 min.
Chinese with Spanish subtitles. Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio.
Directed by Ai Weiwei

As a sequel to Ai Weiwei’s film Disturbing the Peace, the film So Sorry (named after the artist’s 2009 exhibition in Munich, Germany) shows the eruption of tension between Ai and the Chinese Communist government. 

Ai’s studio is actively engaged in the Citizens’ Investigation, an attempt to uncover the names of the student victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. During this period, Ai Weiwei and his studio are under constant state surveillance.

Ai experiences chronic headaches, eventually necessitating emergency surgery for a cerebral hemorrhage, while in Munich. The documentary also captures Ai’s return to Chengdu a year later to seek justice for the assault.

7.45 pm: Straight, 2015, 15 min.
Chinese with Spanish subtitles. Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio.
Directed  by Ai Weiwei

Following the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and Ai Weiwei’s Citizens Investigation project, Ai recovers and purchases 150 tons of steel rebar from the sites of the collapsed schools. He then has the steel rebars straightened and arranges them in stacks of varying dimensions, creating a powerful eulogy and minimalist landscape.

Sunday, June 3
4.30 pm: Fairytale, 2007, 152 min.
Chinese, English, German with Spanish subtitles. Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio.
Directed by Ai Weiwei

Fairytale documents Ai Weiwei’s project Fairytale made for Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany in 2007.  Through massive online recruitment efforts, Ai invites 1001 Chinese citizens of different ages and various backgrounds, most of whom have never left China before, to Germany to experience their own “fairytale”.in the midst of the massive art exhibition.   

This film documents the artist’s ideas and studio preparations for the project and the whole process of people’s applications, travel, and experiences in Kassel.

7.30 pm: Ordos 100, 2011, 61 min.
Chinese with Spanish subtitles. Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio.
Directed by Ai Weiwei

Ordos 100 is a construction project curated by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei. One hundred architects from 27 countries were chosen to participate and each designed a 1000 square meter villa to be built in a new community in Inner Mongolia. The one hundred villas would fit a master plan designed by Ai Weiwei.

On January 25, 2008, the architects gathered in Ordos for a first site visit. This film documents all three site visits to Ordos during that time the master plan and design of each villa was completed. Until today, the project remains unrealized.

8.45 pm: The Crab House, 2011, 61 min.
Chinese with Spanish subtitles. Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio.
Directed by Ai Weiwei

Early in 2008, the district government of Jiading, Shanghai invited Ai Weiwei to build a studio in Malu Township, as a part of the local government's efforts in developing its cultural assets. By August 2010, the Ai Weiwei Shanghai Studio completed all of its construction work.

In October 2010, the Shanghai government declared the Ai Weiwei Shanghai Studio an illegal construction, and it was subjected to demolition. On November 7, 2010, while Ai Weiwei was placed under house arrest by public security in Beijing, over 1,000 netizens attended the "River Crab Feast" at the Shanghai Studio.

On January 11, 2011, the Shanghai city government forcibly demolished the Ai Weiwei Studio within a day, without any prior notice.

Venue: Auditorium.
Tickets: 4 €, 2 € Members; available at the Admissions desk and on guggenheim-bilbao.eus.
Original versions with Spanish subtitles.

 

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