With all of this talk about The Wall, it seemed inevitable that some artist or other would start building walls. It turns out that an artist from another authoritarian country took up the call. Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist well known for his artistic contributions—he consulted on the Beijing National Stadium design for the 2008 Olympics—and his activism—the Chinese government arrested and held him without any official charges for 81 days because he investigated government corruption and coverups.
What a promising start for an artistic statement about walls and fences. The ever-sly Weiwei took it one step further by co-opting the words of Robert Frost’s famous poem ‘Mending Wall’ as the title of his project. In the poem, the narrator tries to talk his neighbor out of building a fence between them, simply because it would keep them unnecessarily apart and sew bad faith. Hmmm.
Ai Weiwei’s challenge was to create something as big and bad as the much talked about Wall. Given his previous experience with creating art on a grand scale, he selected New York City as his tapestry. He figured, why stop at a wall? If you’re going to make this kind of statement to scare your neighbors and make sure that they really don’t like you, why not make it multi-site and multi-media and use every possible space available: public spaces, monuments, buildings, transportation sites, and advertising platforms. Basically an in your face, New York City extravaganza. As stated in the website:
Collectively, these elements comprise a passionate response to the global migration crisis and a reflection on the profound social and political impulse to divide people from each other.
Go, Ai Weiwei!
For a complete listing and where to find all of the fences, check out the Public Art Fund website with its interactive map.