British Columbia

Ai Wei Wei Vancouver sculpture symbolizes resilience and defiance

A new art installation by internationally renowned Chinese artist and human rights activist Ai Wei Wei is making Harbour Green Park in Coal Harbour its home for the next 12 months.

Chinese artist and activist joins Vancouver Biennale with cheeky art installation "F Grass"

"F Grass," a new art installation by Chinese artist and activist Ai Wei Wei is displayed in Coal Harbour as part of Vancouver Biennale. (Vancouver Biennale/Roaming the Planet)

A new art installation by internationally renowned Chinese artist and human rights activist Ai Wei Wei is making Harbour Green Park in Coal Harbour its home for the next 12 months.

The sculpture, called "F Grass" is part of the Vancouver Biennale and is a continuation of Ai’s most recent works such as "Sunflower Seeds" and "@Large". "F Grass," shaped like a giant letter F, is made up of hundreds of cast iron spikes that are meant to look like grass.

Biennale marketing director Miriam Blume spoke with The Early Edition about the symbolism behind  “F Grass.”

The resilience of the human spirit

"Grass is ubiquitous — we barely even notice it in the landscape but yet it’s quite resilient," said Blume.

"You look at a piece of grass and it looks fragile, it looks alone. But you try to stomp it and you try to weed it out, grass keeps coming back. In that sense, it’s a really beautiful and powerful metaphor for the human spirit."

The power of the collective

"Very often Ai Wei Wei turns the lens on everyday people who in their everyday lives are acting in defiant ways, in ways that support freedom of speech and democracy and are showing a kind of bravery that we often don’t acknowledge," said Blume.  

"So again, the grass, you can look at it both in terms of individual pieces showing a kind of resiliency in ordinary lives with ordinary people. And then you also look at it in terms of the collective because as you approach the sculpture, it almost looks like a cast iron road block."

Democracy and defiance

"In Chinese, the character for grass sounds very similar to the f-word obscenity, so if you follow Ai Wei Wei, he’s done a lot of somewhat cheeky, clever yet powerful defiant acts on the Internet where there are censorship police...that is looking for, among other things, obscenity," said Blume.

"So in lieu of saying the f-word, there is an entire movement — Ai Wei Wei included — using the character of grass. So again, it’s humorous and cheeky, but it’s also very poignant, saying an 'f-you' to the censors, (and saying), 'We’re going to get around you.'"  

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.