LOS ANGELES — The Skirball Cultural Center announces a rare speaking engagement by celebrated visual artist, filmmaker and political activist Ai Weiwei. Premiering on the Skirball’s YouTube channel at 11 a.m., Feb. 21, this free virtual talk presents the artist-activist in conversation with Skirball curator Yael Lipschutz about his vast body of work in the context of social justice.
Imprisoned by Chinese authorities in 2011 without cause, Ai has dedicated his life and career to speaking out against human-rights violations around the globe.
During the talk, he discusses how he views the interconnectivity of human suffering as stemming from cultural and economic systems that value profit rather than human life. Yet, in his own words, he reminds viewers to “hope for the better.”
“A Conversation with Ai Weiwei” is presented in anticipation of “Ai Weiwei: Trace,” which will make its Los Angeles debut at the Skirball this spring (pending LA County public-health orders).
Organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., the exhibition portrays individuals from around the world whom the artist and various human rights groups consider to be activists, prisoners of conscience and advocates of free speech.
Each of the portraits is made up of thousands of LEGO bricks, hand-assembled and laid out on the floor. The Skirball presentation will feature three of the installation’s original six floor panels, comprising eighty-three portraits.
Foregrounding Ai’s own experiences of incarceration, interrogation and surveillance, “Ai Weiwei: Trace” spotlights the importance and fragility of our most basic democratic ideals. More information about the exhibition to be announced.
As part of its exploration of Ai’s multidisciplinary practice, the Skirball also invites audiences to view three of his recent documentary films: “Cockroach” (2020), filmed during protests over Hong Kong’s controversial extradition bill; “Vivos” (2020), examining the aftermath of the forced disappearance of forty-three students in Mexico in 2014; and “The Rest” (2019), exploring the lives of refugees who have settled in Europe after escaping persecution and war in their home countries.
Newly released to general audiences, these documentaries take a harrowing look at life in times of crisis through the eyes of the artist. Videos on demand at skirball.org/bearing-witness
Following the YouTube Premiere of “A Conversation with Ai Weiwei,” the virtual talk will be available for viewing on the Skirball’s YouTube channel.