Straight (2008-12) 38 tons of steel rebar. Image: ArtObserver.com.
The 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Over 5,000 children were killed at school, schools that collapsed because of shoddy construction permitted by corrupt officials.
After the government refused to release the names of the dead, Ai Weiwei formed a citizens’ commission, volunteers, including parents, who investigated the disaster and published their findings, including the names of the dead children and details about the corruption.
The government, meanwhile, removed the faulty steel rebar from ruins of the collapsed schools and sold it for recycling. And Ai Weiwei bought it—150 tons of it, twisted evidence of the corruption and the cover-up. He then organized a shop where the steel bars were straightened.
Description edited from Jon Wiener’s ‘Ai Weiwei: Political Art at the Venice Biennale’.