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Ai Weiwei Used the Old Alcatraz Building for Art About Freedom

Built in 1939 on San Francisco's Alcatraz Island, the crumbling New Industries building (the place where the well-behaved prisoners in the nearby federal prison could work for money), is now home to an exhibition by artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Through next April, the artist's work will be turning the building's imprisonment past on its head, with works exhibiting creative flight in a place notorious for its ability to isolate and entrap prisoners. In that way, the building itself plays a pivotable role in Ai Weiwei's statement on human rights and the freedom of expression.

While Ai Weiwei himself is still banned from leaving China (the government has confiscated his passport on account of crimes like an illicit exchange of foreign currency, though the artist says these are "fabricated crimes" to stop his controversial work), the whole seven-piece series, called @Large, was created for Alcatraz remotely. Included in the installation: a psychedelic version of a traditional Chinese dragon kite as well as a soaring, almost skeletal work made of reflective panels—both pieces suggesting broad movement and flight whilst being trapped inside the hardened grey prison. Another piece covers the floor with 175 Lego portraits of imprisoned or exiled individuals, each depiction meticulously assembled with thousands of plastic bricks. And in different corner, prison cells are filled with poetry and music by those who were once silenced for their beliefs.

Oh, and he also filled a bathroom with ceramic flowers. Want more? Design Boom has the full photo gallery, right this way.

· ai weiwei installs seven large-scale works on alcatraz island [designboom]
· @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz [For Site Foundation]
· All Ai Weiwei posts [Curbed National]