Ai WeiWei’s Tangled Repurposed Stools


The renowned Chinese artist Ai WeiWei‘s “Bang” installation on display in the German Pavillion at the Venice Biennale this year, brings together themes of dwindling customs, culture and sustainability. The tower of tangled wooden stools are made from sturdy wood by skilled craftsman and were handed down from generation to generation.


“For his installation for the German representation at the French Pavilion, Ai Weiwei has assembled 886 three-legged wooden stools. In today’s China, the three-legged stool is an antique. Manufactured by a uniform method, it was in use throughout China and in all sectors of society for centuries.”


“Every family had at least one stool, which served all sorts of domestic purposes and was passed on from generation to generation. After the Cultural Revolution, which began in 1966, and the subsequent modernization of the country, however, production of these stools plummeted. Aluminum and plastic have superseded wood as the standard material for furniture.” Susanne Gaensheimer states in the foreword of the official publication of the German Pavilion at the Biennale di Venezia 2013


She continues to describe the significance of the way the stools are arranged and WeiWei’s metaphoric intentions behind the installation.

“Out of 886 of these stereotyped and yet highly individual objects, Ai Weiwei, recruiting traditional craftsmen who possess the necessary and now rare expertise, has created an expansive rhizomatic structure whose sprawling growth recalls the rampantly proliferating organisms of this world’s megacities. The single stool as part of an encompassing sculptural structure may be read as a metaphor for the individual and its relation to an overarching and excessive system in a postmodern world developing at lightning speed.


“In the present exhibition, it functions also as a metaphor of the themes addressed in the works of Romuald Karmakar, Santu Mofokeng, and Dayanita Singh, each of whom has devised distinctive techniques to present a variety of perspectives on how biographical, cultural, or political identity is related to larger, transnational conditions and circumstances.”

All images are courtesy of Roman Mensing for the German Pavilion.