Last week our IB Art class watched some videos about Ai Wei Wei. Recently after making a mass order of Lego pieces for his new piece, the contemporary artist was denied access to the materials by Lego. According to the company, they avoid “actively engaging in or endorsing the use of Lego bricks in projects or contexts of a political agenda.” Ai Wei Wei, who is possibly the most controversial contemporary artist in the world today, certainly fits into this restriction.
Nevertheless, Wei Wei is not giving up on his project. Instead, he’s now accepting donation of Lego bricks from all over the world. Just because a major corporation told him, “no”, it doesn’t mean he’s going to stop, because according to Wei Wei it is an artist’s duty to show their feelings through his work.
In my opinion, showing your feelings through artwork is what it’s all about. Whether those feelings are controversial, emotional, thought provoking, or anything else, art is there for you to express what you would otherwise keep inside. For me, that is what my entire exhibition is about, sharing my feelings through art, especially ones that I don’t share in any other way. Art is a medium that is there for you to display your thoughts to the world.
But sometimes displaying those thoughts are hard. Take Ai Wei Wei for example, who has been incarcerated for opposing the government through his artwork. Another artist like this is Honore Daumier, the “Michelangelo of caricatures”. He published a caricature of the king of France, Louis Phillippe, and portrayed him as a giant named Gargantua. Because of this social commentary, Daumier was imprisoned for six months.
Gargantua by Honore Daumier, 1831
The moral of this story? Even if you know that your thoughts will cause controversy, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t speak your mind. As an artist, you can’t be afraid of criticism or punishment. Art has the power to change the world, but you have to let it.