Ai Weiwei Creates a Homage to Julian Assange
Julian Assange’s treadmill, which he despatched to Ai Weiwei in October 2016 whereas he was nonetheless on the Embassy of Ecuador in London, 4 years after taking refuge there, is the topic of a brand new and intriguing print version by the artist. Printed on shiny aluminum by Damocle Edizioni, a publishing home in Venice, “Treadmill” depicts Assange’s token of appreciation for Ai’s outspoken help of him.
“My views on Assange haven’t modified,” Ai advised Hyperallergic from Rome, the place he’s directing a brand new manufacturing of Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot on the Teatro dell’Opera that opened this week. “He really represents a core worth of why we’re free: It’s as a result of we now have freedom of speech and a free press. His imprisonment marks the collapse of a free and civilized society.”
The unique idea got here from “Yours Really,” a postcard writing part of the exhibition @Giant: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz in 2014. Guests had been invited to compose messages of hope to political prisoners whose plight was highlighted within the exhibition.
In June 2021, Damocle Edizioni’s founder Pierpaolo Pregnolato visited Ai in Lisbon, the Chinese language artist’s new residence, on the event of his solo exhibition Rapture at Cordoaria Nacional. Earlier within the day they’d spoken about Assange. Ai repeated his view that it was vital to take a stance on Assange’s arrest in Britain following an extradition request by the USA for leaking state secrets and techniques.
As they had been about to half methods after the opening of Rapture, Ai took out the treadmill postcard he had designed from the internal pocket of his jacket. “Suppose if something will be carried out about this undertaking,” the artist advised Pregnolato. That very same day, Ai had discovered that Firstsite, a British visible arts group primarily based in Colchester, had turned down his submission of “Treadmill” for The Nice Massive Artwork Exhibition in 2021.
Nothing convincing got here out of some take a look at runs Pregnolato did on paper a couple of months later, when Ai briefly met with him in Venice. Then, in late December, Ai requested Pregnolato to accompany him to Syracuse, Sicily. All issues got here collectively there.
Pregnolato immediately remembered the wooden and felt postcards by German artist Joseph Beuys he had seen on the K20 and K21 museum advanced in Düsseldorf. “It is a postcard however additionally it is an object,” Pregnolato advised Hyperallergic, considering of a metallic medium for the treadmill undertaking. “Metallic can symbolize a thousand issues.”
Whereas discussing the thought with Ai, Pregnolato puzzled about the potential of inverting the colours, as in a adverse print, evoking Andy Warhol’s “Electrical Chair” (1971). “What they’re attempting to make of Assange is a destruction, a breakdown of the particular person,” Pregnolato stated. “How do you break a picture down? You break the picture down into colours.”
Pregnolato concedes the problem of Assange is sophisticated; some might not care about him, whereas others have robust opinions. The US accuses Assange of hacking into the computer systems of its intelligence businesses, however to his supporters, he’s the sufferer of a smear and persecution marketing campaign for exposing beforehand unknown US navy operations in Afghanistan and Iraq that resulted within the deaths of tons of of civilians. In April 2019, Ecuador revoked Assange’s political asylum and he was arrested by British police.
Ai’s prints are available in two variations — the photograph of the treadmill and its adverse. On the reverse of every is an inscription: the handle of the London jail the place Assange is held.