I jumped on the wrong train | publication

An interview with Ai Weiwei by Bert de Muynck | Mark Magazine #12, 2008

Mark Magazine has its 12th issue out. Bert de Muynck | MovingCities contributed to it with an interview with Chinese architect-artist Ai Weiwei 艾未未. In the interview Ai Weiwei looks back on his short but intense career as an architect.

Extract from interview with Ai Weiwei

The Template structure displayed at Documenta collapsed after a couple of days. Was it the engineer’s fault?

There was no engineer involved. I am fully responsible. I designed Template to be erected indoors, where it would never fall down. At the last minute I was asked to contribute another piece for Documenta. I hadn’t done any research on the weather in Germany. When the structure collapsed, I realized it was okay. The structure changed form, but preserving its original shape was not crucial. Displaying the collapsed structure was a good decision and perhaps worked even better than my initial idea. When nature entered the picture, people found themselves discussing the process and the life span of art, including possible changes and unpredictable conditions.

What has happened to Template?

After the collapse, we asked engineers at Kassel University to make a complete calculation of the measurements. We’re thinking about the possibilities of removing and rebuilding the structure in its present condition. It’s more interesting than it was. I think of it as dealing with change and remaking a miracle – the same shit but in a different form.

The dialogue between past and present is part of your art. Isn’t it awkward to put the same sort of dialogue into architecture?

The windows of the Template structure come from old towns and villages in Northern China that have been destroyed. Such windows are sold in marketplaces as decorative items. They came from ruins, and we made something out of them. When history appears in art, as a material used for construction, it holds not only memory, but also knowledge, reflecting the conditions of the time. Using historical materials allows me to show the contradictions and conflicts of the current condition. It comes naturally to me when I’m making art. New and old should be integrated more often in architecture; the combination makes sites and cities more interesting. This is not what is happening in today’s China, however, where government policy can lead to the overnight eradication of entire areas. Such brutality and violence goes beyond buildings, ignoring residents, citizens, memories, traditions, the past. It shows the kind of society we’re living in.

An interview with Ai Weiwei, MARK Magazine #12, Jan-Feb 2008

Projects by Ai Weiwei:

  • ORDOS100 | 100 international architects design each one villa of 1000m2 in Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
    Text by Bert de Muynck
  • Jinhua Architecture Park Opening | 17 chinese & international architects design each one pavillion in Jinhua. Text by Bert de Muynck

Other publications in MARK Magazine:

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