While many people may argue that deception is a negative act, I would argue that the deception presented by Ai Wei Wei in his exhibit at Frederick Meijer Gardens this spring is more to spark intrigue rather than cause genuine harm. All of the pieces displayed immense attention to detail, both traditional and unique, be it a porcelain bowl or wallpaper created from photographs. The show was rich with detail, which played an important part in the deception of Ai Wei Wei – he makes a pieces and designs that appear as one object or idea but are usually layered in symbolism that can only be deciphered upon closer inspection.
One of my favorite examples of this “deception” presented by Ai Wei Wei was the ornate, golden, intricately designed wallpaper in the main exhibition room. From a distance, the designs of the wallpaper are reminiscent of Baroque and Rococo extravagance, and give the implication of power, wealth, and status.
The deception present in this wallpaper, a visual element usually ignored and taken for granted in lieu of mediums considered to be fine art, is that the designs used in this piece are not mere shapes, but are in fact symbols and objects with significance to the resistance and censorship Ai Wei Wei has faced in his work. Once closer, you can see the twitter bird symbols, security cameras, chains, and golden cats that make up these ornate designs. All of these contribute to the narrative of Ai Wei Wei’s experience interacting with the Chinese government and his views along by juxtaposing elements of censorship and control that can be seen in detail with the power and visual ambiguity associated with viewing the wallpaper from a distance.
While I didn’t sense a cohesive visual theme to the exhibit – I thought it was a good showing of his different works but each of them were separate and distinct. And while there was no cohesive visual theme, Ai Wei Wei’s symbolism, details, and deception shined through in this exhibit.