The Armory Show 2011, though not mind-blowing, certainly had its highlights. But one piece that made me look twice, and then fall into a deep pit of failed artistic expectation, was Ai Weiwei’s “My Surveillance Camera” (2010) at Galerie Urs Meile. It’s a surveillance camera, but made of marble. Get it?
If I was doing Art Fag City’s signature “Object Most Resembling Contemporary Art” series, this would definitely be the winner. It’s like Ai Weiwei woke up one day, Google image searched “contemporary art,” and hodge-podged the results into a single, simplistic idea of material transformation and appropriation. The piece is some Banksy-level stuff from one of the only artists who can pull off such transformative pieces without collapsing into cliche.
Is it commentary on the omnipresence of surveillance? Is it the posing of government surveillance as a sign of wealth and prosperity for a growing China? Does it look a little like a Star Wars robot? All of these may be true. This piece just did not succeed at transcending its sources. It’s totally contemporary art, I’m just not sure what else.
[Update]: Thinking of this in its Chinese title rather than the title given on the label (“My Surveillance Camera” rather than “Surveillance Camera” makes more sense to me. If this mechanical object made natural and permanent is meant to represent the burden of the artist’s own surveillance by the Chinese government, then I’m liking it more. I still think the material is kind of gratuitous, but the stone lends it a poetry as a metaphorical “weight.”
This week, another reason to leave Facebook, who really invented democracy, and what is “Skimpflation”?
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