What you are looking at here are over a hundred hand-made, porcelain crabs that Ai Weiwei created to honor the River Crab Festival that his supporters threw for him while he was under arrest. The river crab in Chinese is a homonym for the Communist government’s favorite buzzword: political harmony. The reason that his supporters came together at this particular moment as an act of dissidence was that while Ai Weiwei was being held in Beijing the government took the opportunity to destroy his art studio in Shanghai.


The main exhibit hall at the Meijer Gardens (Grand Rapids) was wallpapered in a gold and white series of images and designs Ai Weiwei created. In the center is the Twitter bird icon, surrounded by handcuffs and security cameras.  Ai Weiwei used social media as a tool to get his art and messages out to an international audience, a platform that his government keeps censoring. The images are repeated over and over, the closer you get the more details emerge.


One of Ai Weiwei’s (Chinese artist and political activist) most provocative pieces of art is called, “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn,” where he is photographed dropping a 2000 year-old vase on the ground. His point is that Communist China destroyed innumerable books, art, architecture in Mao’s Great Leap Forward; if you’re shocked at seeing one vase destroyed consider what modern China has done to its own history. This is a reproduction of “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn” done in Legos.