Sold-out in two minutes.
After being closed for expansion along the East End, the reopening of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in September was indeed celebratory. The opening exhibition in the new and improved space is Bare Life by the internationally renowned artist—Ai Weiwei.
Before the official opening, there was a soft opening event that offered students and members to attend Q&A with Ai Weiwei. Tickets went on sale on a Thursday morning at 10am, by 10:02am the tickets were gone.
The venue was the 560 music center with additional seating in Steinberg. On the day of the event, attendees filled the converted synagogue and sat in quiet anticipation of listening to one of the great artists and humanitarian of our generation.
Dean Carmon Colangelo introduced Ai and Sabine Eckmann before they enter for the Q&A. The two have an easy chemistry that makes the conversation enjoyable to watch. Ai sits forward in his chair, his elbows resting on his knees, he leans close to the audience.
They two begin to talk about his career and his activism. Ai talks about what human rights mean to him. About how you can’t really say you care about something if you’re doing nothing about it. He talks about the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and how that both derailed his life and yet kicked off his notable career. The casualties of the devastating natural disaster were caused by inadequate building construction. Children died when the buildings collapsed. This terrible occurrence and the names of the children who were victims were covered up by the government until Ai started to post names on his blog. This got him into trouble with the government.
Ai says that now, despite his father having been a respected poet and very accessible on the internet, he was no longer searchable as his son on Google. His mother is unable to see his face on the internet. Because of the humbling nature of his background and ability to observe current violations of human rights that Ai remains such a down-to-earth and approachable character. In the face of highly academic questions about universalism, Ai would approach them thoughtfully, first remarking with a slight sense of humor that it may be “a big question” and then going on to respond. None of us are free if all of us are not free.
At all points, Ai reminds us of our humanity, no matter what we are going through. To demonstrate the caring we have for one another, when he runs out of water, he “borrows” Sabine’s because… we’re all friends and humans here, right?