Ai Weiwei’s Prison Dioramas at the Venice Biennale

May 30, 2013 | Julia Dawidowicz

Almost two years after his release from Chinese prison, dissident artist Ai Weiwei addresses his politically motivated 80 day incarceration with S.A.C.R.E.D., currently on view at the Venice Biennale. It’s a series of six dioramas, each representing a scene from his time behind bars — in fiberglass and iron, 377 x 198 x 153 cm.

Set inside boxes which viewers can peer into through prison-like doors, Ai Weiwei exposes some of his most intimate and degrading moments at the hands of the Chinese authorities, in hyperrealistic detail. Some of these themes were addressed explicitly in his recent “Dumbass” metal music video debut.

The six-part work, composed of “(i) S upper, (ii) A ccusers, (iii) C leansing, (iv) R itual, (v) E ntropy, and (vi) D oubt,” is part of a larger exhibition called “Disposition,” presented at two venues in Venice. Ai Weiwei himself was forbidden to travel to the event by the Chinese government, so he sent his proud mother to represent.