From National Heritage to Transnational Trauma: Tradition, Globalization, and Refugees in the Art of Ai Weiwei




Patrias, Jordyn

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Activist artist Ai Weiwei (born 1957) focuses attention on the conceptual construction of different histories in a period of global exchange. In his installations, Ai examines personal, national, and international relationships through reflections of self, society, and the human condition. This thesis considers one project and two exhibitions, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995), Soleil Levant (June 20-October 1, 2017), and Ai Weiwei: Life Cycle (September 28, 2018-March 3, 2019), for the purpose of exploring Ai's use of tradition, and subsequently, his transformation of that tradition to create an image of power that speaks to a global audience. This thesis investigates Ai's appreciation for Chinese and Western art historical and socio-cultural histories as he explores themes of identity, representation, and cross-cultural exchange.


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Activist Art, Ai Weiwei, Contemporary Art, Contemporary Chinese Art, Globalization, Refugees



Art and Art History