Traveling Light, 2007

Installation view: Abundant Futures. Works from the TBA21 Collection, Centro de Creación Contemporánea de Andalucía C3A, Córdoba, Spain, 2022
Photo: Roberto Ruiz

Tieli wood, glass crystals, steel, electric light
478 x 224 x 178 cm

“History is always the missing part of the puzzle in everything we do.” This statement by Ai Weiwei recognizes that the present is populated by fragments of history, and the task before us is to seek out ways to reconstitute, resurrect, or combine those fragments. Even if it is obscured and invisible, the past demands that we respond to it without romantic longing or nostalgia. Ai, who often employs historical objects of great value in his artworks, rejects the instrumentalization of history and rather seeks to create a sense of disorientation and disobedience by putting antique objects to unexpected uses.
In Traveling Light, a Ming-dynasty pillar is used as the central column for an elaborate chandelier of the kinds Ai has been producing for years. The nearly five-meter-tall wooden pole rises from a movable metal base. The chandelier sparkling at its top is made of 5000 beads specially commissioned for the piece, hanging in four intersecting circles. Delicate chains of different length are strung with yellow crystal-shaped beads, emitting a brilliant glittering glow. The huge pillar and gracefully drooping, willowy skeins of beads in Traveling Light create the piece’s towering and magnetic appeal, visually actualizing the artist’s statement: “This becomes for me like a baldachin, with all the sense of power and associations that go with it.”


Group exhibition: Abundant Futures
Venue: C3A Centro de Creación Contemporánea de Andalucía, Córdoba  
Curator: Daniela Zyman
April 1, 2022 - March 5, 2023
Mami Kataoka, "Fragments of History: What Is Preserved and What Is Reformed", in Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary: The Collection Book, eds. Eva Ebersberger, Daniela Zyman (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2009)
Born in Beijing, China, in 1957. Lives in Berlin, Germany.