Ai Weiwei (or the RL day of 2 SL avatars)

I am so glad that I can post this now, right after the last post. After having completely let loose about how I am so fed up with the mediocrity, the banality, the cliche ridden existence of contemporary art in general, it feels so good to be bowled over and wowed by this! Truth be told I am at the point where I no longer even bother, no longer go to art events, avoid biennials and such. I no longer want to be subjected to so much ado about nothing, to endless loops of grainy video with no tangible beginning and no end. I have had it!

And then along comes somebody and grabs you by the scruff of your neck and frog-marches you into the Haus der Kunst in Munich and you stand there gobsmacked, not to mention thoroughly ashamed of your all-encompassing big mouth from just a few days ago!

Well, maybe not straight off the bat, I have to admit. The first piece is gigantic and impressive. As I subsequently find out the massive construct was shown at Documenta where it collapsed during a storm and what I am looking at here is the relic corkscrewing onto itself in gigantic cylindrical segments. A relic assembled out of hundreds of doors and window frames torn out of old Chinese houses. Poignant, shocking. It is really quite stunning and I am duly stunned – and yet, and yet, I cannot help but feel that I am still facing “a problem solved”, the spectacular output of a master designer commenting on the “rape” of antique artifacts, in other words. Then come a number of three dimensional Chinese maps, delicately constructed wooden towers that are maps when looked at from above. Truly beautiful, but again, smells very strongly of a designer’s mind to me. Not that anything is wrong with that at all – I am one myself after all and have nothing but the deepest respect for my own trade. But art? Hmmm…. I wonder… I mean, I really am trying to co-operate here but at this early stage I am not yet convinced…

And then, we make our way into the central hall of the exhibition where a petrified forest awaits us and there I am totally blown away! This is certainly no master designer but an artist – a genius of an artist, in fact: This is the brink between order and chaos, a visual response to the question with no answer – presenting you with even more questions, even more riddles.

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I am difficult by disposition (in the unlikely case that this might have slipped your attention somehow) and so inevitably some few details, such as the photos of the 1000 or so Chinese citizens whom Ai Weiwei brought to Documenta and which provide a background texture to the forest and especially the tent displaying their accommodations next door keep on niggling at me. I really do not want to see them. Why? Because again, they seem to bring in some kind of a “problem solved” thing which is so insignificant next to this sea of gigantic trees. Or to all of those heavy beams driven into those delicate antique tables on display in yet another room. And then there is a single table and a single beam in one other room and suddenly the whole exhibit, tree trunks and all, does a huge perceptual flip for me and I see Eros. Not Eros the cute little cherub equipped with bow and arrow but Eros the primal force. As in Eros the roof beam. But also the table. Many tables. The couplings of roof beams and tables. And then next door, huge chunks of trees, almost fossilized, arranged like the soldiers of the terracotta army. And also neolithic urns, thousands of them, so many in fact, that he has ground them into dust and placed them in glass jars. Some colored with aniline paint. Metaphors I almost understand and yet do not. There is a fight with human culture here – maybe. The insignificance of it – or maybe the significance – or maybe a contradiction grounded in culture. Really, I am not sure. But, am I glad I saw this! And at the height of my hatred of “contemporary art” at that!

So, who was it that dragged me kicking and screaming into the gallery in the first place then? It was none other than the human of Selavy Oh! There are very few people that I really seem to hang out with in SL, and Selavy is one of them. We first became associated while I was writing up the NPIRL blog post last June. Emailed back and forth about the work, met in-world a few times and so forth. After the post went up we made a pact: We would say hi to one another once a week. It seems that we are both very shy (yes, despite my loud mouth I am in fact very very shy and so apparently is Selavy), therefore unless we had had an agreement of this sort we would undoubtedly have gone our separate ways. But we have in fact kept up this pact and have hung out, mostly via email it seems. So, a month or so ago when I knew that I would be going to a conference in Munich, Selavy’s home town, we arranged to get together and have a coffee at least. Coffee turned into an almost 5 hour session, during which we first wandered through Ai Weiwei’s show and then through various streets and quarters of Munich, in and out of underground trains, punctuated by cups of coffee, a lunch during which I demolished 3 gigantic weisswuerschtl and Selavy’s human half a roast duck; more wandering, quite a few cigarettes (turns out we are thoroughly nasty old smoke stacks, both of us). During the entire time, I do not think that we stopped nattering even for one minute – or at least I didn’t for sure. And somehow Selavy’s human also managed to get a word in edgewise every so often, I guess. Which is highly commendable, of course: Shows persistence!

Not to worry. I am not going to go into any kind of a discourse over RL and SL and their respective merits and shortcomings now, would be very inane to still be doing so after 3 years of full time SL Residency anyway. Only one thing to say really: Human beings can smile. And avatars cannot.

Fact.

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