Art briefing – circle of animals/zodiac heads deals, in form of public art, with historical values, often conflicting/contradictory like identity and the appropriation, the essence of the object and its reproduction. This is ai wei-wei or the art of cultural conflicts.
If there is a word that constantly goes around in the orbit of the instantaneous, accessible and consumable image nowadays it’s… fake. Treated as equivalent to mass- produced objects through a profile, we can already compete in staying like copies with no original, enjoying some immortality in the face of social scrutiny: what to be, to mean, to pretend, to own. In the world of art, thousands of works that represent values, symbols of a point in time, thousands, have been moved, replaced or relocated, with no umbilical cord, but as relics or placebo.
Designed in the 18th century by two european artists in the service of the qianlong emperor, the twelve heads of the animal zodiac were initially located in the old summer palace or yuanmingyuan, a unique water clock destined to the privileged location of the french style gardens. During the opium war, the palace was wiped out by french and british troops, and the heads, together with other pieces and objects, were looted. Appropriation, plunder and possibilities of reproduction and return are part of the history of world art, as much as fetishism and superstition. Ai wei-wei emphasises the interest of this phenomenon thanks to a large- scale interpretation of the animal heads and an expedition around the world with guardians, but no usurpers.