‘Tree series’ – Ai Wei Wei, 2009 – Present (and the horror of a tree’s corpse)

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A pair of Trees, fused together

(Image taken from; https://media.guim.co.uk/cfc5690192e43bfb037059586e1a27798a40b8a8/0_154_4000_2402/master/4000.jpg)

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One of Ai Wei Wei’s Trees, isolated

(image taken from; https://d16tpmyokmwdws.cloudfront.net/blog.php?src=http%3A%2F%2Fblog.barnebys.org%2Fuk%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2Fsites%2F3%2F2015%2F07%2Fdata.jpeg)

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A Tree I am currently attempting to ‘fuse’ together

Within my studio work, I am attempting to create a sculpture from the decaying remains of a living being; although gore and rot of a decaying cadaver was an intriguing step within this body of work, I have been drawn to the decaying corpses of the other denizens of the earth; those that are alive, and yet do not move. The tree is often regarded as a symbol of growth and life, but yet, it’s remains are utilised to provide shelter and warmth for the humans that harvest it’s remnants. A corpse should be left well alone, and yet we butcher and dismember it for our own means. There’s something so intriguing about the negativity drawn from the dismemberment of the corpse of a seemingly ‘alive’ being, and yet the whole means of providing warmth for the human race is due to the almighty power of the mighty tree?

Ai Wei Wei explores the notion of ‘recollection’ and ‘togetherness’ through these ‘tree’ sculptures, which were created through the purchasing of logs brought down from the mountains around the cities that Ai Wei Wei visits, and re-assembling them in his studio. The works stand for ‘The concept behind the tree is that they are artificially created, representing the diversity of China’s people and land being brought together.’ Ai Wei Wei himself has spoken about the process as ‘just like trying to imagine what the tree looked like’, and references the ideal ‘united nation’ that the Chinese people are striving for. Although these are the defining concepts, there seem to be a lot more references within the work; I can see nods to Frankenstein, in the trees being created out of different dismembered pieces of trees that have been broken in nature and reattached together, but also I can see a level of harmony within the works; a variety of different objects and ‘lives’ running concurrently together, like a rope that has been braided. This is something that I am striving for within my own work; in the sense that I would like to achieve a level of harmony within my own works between the dead matter, and the ‘living crystals’ that I am growing on the objects. through this re-animation, I am attempting to communicate a concept of ‘reclamation’, and the notion of eventual reclamation and immortality, through the method of living vicariously through that which absorbs the dead matter that we become when ‘life’ leaves our body.

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