See Ai Weiwei’s Pro-Love AIDS Foundation Video

by Kyle Chayka on February 15, 2013

Ai Weiwei, "Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn" (1995) (Image via

Ai Weiwei, “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn” (1995) (Image via

Would you think an artist dead set on destroying ancient vases would be quite so romantic? The Elton John AIDS Foundation has commissioned Ai Weiwei to create a short video animation published on the occasion of Valentine’s Day, and the results are… unexpected.

The clip comes in two versions. In the first, red splotches fall onto a white surface and pool out, filling the screen with color. Slowly, the words “love is in our blood” are revealed in the spots. In the second, longer version, the colors are reversed. An ominous (or is it passionate?) heartbeat forms the soundtrack.

Check out the video, which will run in public areas around the world, including Times Square, below.

“This work is about love, about a need for all to be concerned with life,” Ai told the foundation of the video. The foundation’s Love Is in My Blood campaign is meant to increase awareness about people currently living with HIV — a number that exceeds 30 million, with 2.6 million more becoming infected every year. Ai’s video will help to “overcome the stigma that comes with HIV,” explains the foundation.

In terms of aesthetics, the animated video is actually an interesting step forward for Ai. It’s produced by Ai Weiwei Studio, a more generalized collective name that signals the work of the artist’s assistants and team, much like the work of the embattled FAKE studio, which is still fighting tax fines from the Chinese government following Ai’s arrest in 2011. There’s a graphic clarity to the clip that suggests a different kind of sensibility than the artist’s conceptual sculpture and photography.

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  • I remembered seeing an anti BP ad (after their leak) that was almost exactly the same, it was a blue background with plumes of oil and then a slowly emerging BP logo.

    That said, given Ai’s use of scale, symbolism, and material choices in previous work this is a spartan move by his studio.

    I’m not sure about the tenuous connection between love and AIDS. Couldn’t the exact same be said of any blood borne pathogen, or life threatening situation? AIDS has serious ramifications for infected people, their families, their friends, and anyone else they may meet in life. Love and life and AIDS seems trite.

    • Jamie DeAngelo

      I sort of agree. This piece probably reads differently to people who have HIV and to those who don’t. Appropriate tone and effectiveness depends entirely on the audience here.

      Ok, that sparse, saccharine video seems like a noncommittal gesture to me, a non-AIDS sufferer, because HIV is a seriously scary bug with horrifying consequences. I’m happy to be reminded to avoid it as often as possible, and this video doesn’t do that for me.

      But can you simultaneously support sufferers of AIDS while telling the rest of the world to watch out for/stay away from AIDS? How do you do that without making the carriers look like the enemy? I don’t know, but I do think that the sort of vague appeal to love is an effort to address the social alienation aspect of life with HIV.

      I suspect the triteness of this might just read as a refreshing lightness to someone who schleps around the social stigma of carrying one of the most feared organisms on earth in their blood stream. Still, the author says the purpose is to raise awareness (presumably among non-HIV havers). Maybe they should have gone with a PSA?Maybe interviewed someone who has HIV?

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