Contemplation

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Where to end . . .

1 of 3: Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn
Ai Weiwei 1995

Do we protect the past? Conserve what was in order to understand what is?

Molded by ancient hands, crafted with skill and powered by expression. Painted with both imagination and rules of design. Created with purpose.

Shall it remain in stasis, revered as a portal to a time and place that no longer exists?

A bold act . . .

2 of 3: Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn
Ai Weiwei 1995

Can we let go? Roots reach back and anchor a mindset. This we treasure as lessons learned, but the strings remain attached and grow taut. Are they the warp and weft of a safety net or the threads of a noose?

There is order in boundaries, rules, and ethics. Some mistaken comfort as freedom.

Release the ledger of what has come to pass and leave a blank page of infinite possibilities.

Where to begin . . .

3 of 3: Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn
Ai Weiwei 1995

Fragments mark a fragile break. Tradition, filial piety, and honored antiquity lay shattered at the feet of the living. Dust settles in the breath of the present. Not forgotten, just released.

Courageous or cowardly? Expression or defacement?

Innovative? Tragic?

Do we break what has already been broken, establish anew, or redefine as a whole?

- – -

Words by c.b.w. 2013

Photographs captured at an exhibition entitled, “Ai Weiwei: According to What?”

- – -

c.b.w. 2013

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18 thoughts on “Contemplation

  1. Very thought provoking writing, C.B. I love the words about looking at strings from the past as two possibilities: safety net or noose. Or both at once. I’ve tried to not jump to an opinion about the vase smashing, ever since I heard about it in the movie. It would be easy for me to see it as waste and desecration. I am instead trying to see it as part of a much larger context, one that I will never understand having lived so far outside of it, and so one that I best not judge. I think what you wrote in this post is a remarkable roadmap or guidebook to how to think about his act/his art. Thinking about your role as a history teacher, I am sure that you also have had a serious search for meaning with this as well. Whew- he sure makes us think!

    • I find myself stuck in the middle with Ai Weiwei’s work. From an artistic standpoint he blows me away with thought provoking pieces and philosophy. He sees the world from such a unique perspective and I like the challenge of trying to understand his point of view. From a historian’s mindset, I get infuriated with what at first seems like destruction of priceless historical artifacts. Then I realize, his perspective is forcing me to think outside of a linear mode of time. There is more to history than clinging to the past.

      Indeed, Ai Weiwei makes us think!

  2. This sure made me stop and think. My heart tells me that losing a priceless artifact is tragic but my mind feels the freedom of letting go of ‘stuff’ before it topples down and crushes me. I am a pack rat with sentiment attached to many old pieces in my home that link me to family that has gone ‘beyond the veil’. How much is too much? It’s hard for me to decide what I need and what I desire and what I can/should give/throw away. :)

    • I’m a bit of a pack rat, too, but I’ve gotten better about clearing things out. At the same time, the history dork in me sees so much value in old things. Ai Weiwei’s perspective has definitely caused some internal conflict, but he also got me to see past the boundary of linear time. It’s a new way of thinking that I’m still processing. :-)

  3. Cindi

    Very moving from someone who who is surrounded by ‘stuff’. I think about this often as I know that my children don’t treasure the ‘stuff’ that I’ve hoarded over the years so eventually it will be given away or sold when I’m gone, so I ponder if I should just be rid of it now and determine the fate of my ‘stuff’ or let it surround me and not care about it cause when I’m gone it won’t matter to me anyway. So I continue to ponder and let it fill me with some angst and some joy. Perhaps I should write a will for my ‘stuff’ and let my heirs carry that out, then that’s unfair to them as that takes time from their busy lives. Such a thought provoking guy!

    • I’m a bit of a pack rat myself, but over the last few years I’ve learned to let go. This life is fleeting and made of memories we keep in our hearts instead of those we hide in a closet or on a shelf. :-)

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