The next day was the reason for our whole trip: A visit to Ai Wei Wei’s @Large exhibit at Alcatraz Island. For those who don’t know, Ai Wei Wei is a contemporary Chinese artist and activist. He has been a political activist for many years in regards to human rights and democracy for China. You can read more about him here. He was banned from leaving China in 2011 after he was arrested for tax evasion, among other alleged crimes, so this entire Alcatraz show was put together by other people he communicated with. I just found an article that says he has since had his passport returned to him this past July. He’s been through a lot: his studio was demolished by the Chinese government, several people he’s worked with have mysteriously gone missing (assumed to have disappeared into police custody), he’s endured emotional and psychological abuse by the Chinese government, and he still continues to create art. All the details of the exhibition can be found here.

20150228_095009

DSCN1868

One of those outfits in the future (and now) that I think WTF am I wearing?

It was interesting to walk around the place, because most of the people had no idea the exhibit was there, or who Ai Wei Wei was. There were many information people standing around if you had any questions, which was nice, but I always wonder if people who came to see the place and not the art will find this interesting at all. I’m sure it will for some people, but I feel like most people won’t understand the significance of it.DSCN1861 DSCN1862 DSCN1863 DSCN1864 DSCN1865 DSCN1866 DSCN1867 The Lego piece was amazing. It must have taken a zillion years to plan out and build.

DSCN1872DSCN1873 DSCN1874 DSCN1875 DSCN1876 DSCN1877 DSCN1879 DSCN1880 DSCN1881 DSCN1891There were binders that you could flip through with each face and an explanation of what their ‘crime’ was.

DSCN1887Although the artwork dominated the rooms, there were details about the building that were just as intriguing to me.DSCN1886 DSCN1860 DSCN1882 DSCN1883 DSCN1898There were exhibits at every main building, so we spent a good portion of the morning walking around everything. There were guided tours offered, as well as headsets you could listen to, but we chose to go off on our own for the most part.DSCN1892DSCN1889One of my favorite installations was a music installation. Each cell had a different song playing. It was weird to sit in the tiny cells and imagine living there, having such a small space to stare at, day in and day out.DSCN1897

It was kinda weird to smile while I was sitting there, so I had to do one sad picture.

It was kinda weird to smile while I was sitting there, so I had to do one sad picture.

DSCN1901 DSCN1903 DSCN1902 DSCN1904 DSCN1906 DSCN1905 DSCN1895The more I read about all these people, the more I was grateful about living where I do, much as I might complain about it sometimes. But I can pretty much write a song about whatever the heck I want and I won’t be tortured for it. I can listen to and read whatever I want and not live in fear.

This next sculpture really confused people. Most everyone just glanced at it, wondered what it was about, and were too lazy to read or ask questions. Really people? It takes four seconds to read giant signs. (And I know art isn’t for everyone, but if you’re already there, take the time!)

DSCN1951 DSCN1957 DSCN1959 DSCN1960 DSCN1961 DSCN1962 DSCN1962 DSCN1961 DSCN1960 DSCN1959 DSCN1957There were a few more sound installations we walked through, and we also saw some of the rooms that were left the way they were when Alcatraz was a working prison.DSCN1952 DSCN1964 DSCN1953 DSCN1954 DSCN1955 DSCN1956 DSCN1963At the very end, post cards were scattered across tables and binders were available for anyone who wished to read about the individuals portrayed in the artwork. We were allowed to write a small note to someone. There were children reading about all these people, adults who’ve never heard of most of them, and it was really amazing to be able to participate in. All the postcards were going to be mailed to their recipients at the end of the show.DSCN1965 20150228_11412620150228_113953DSCN1967DSCN1979After we had viewed the exhibits, we walked around the grounds for a bit. The gardens were my favorite part.

Half of the grounds were closed because it was these little guys mating season.

Half of the grounds were closed because it was these little guys mating season.

DSCN1918

Closed off because of mating season.

Closed off because of mating season.

DSCN1921 DSCN1922 DSCN1925 DSCN1927 DSCN1928 DSCN1930 DSCN1942 DSCN1932 DSCN1934 DSCN1935 DSCN1936 DSCN1939 DSCN1943 DSCN1948 DSCN1949 DSCN1950 DSCN1947 DSCN1940The views of the city from the island were pretty spectacular.DSCN1909 DSCN1910 DSCN1912 DSCN1941 DSCN1969 DSCN1972 DSCN1971 DSCN1981 DSCN1983 DSCN1994 DSCN1991 DSCN1987 DSCN1926Around lunchtime we finished and took the short boat ride back to the harbor and headed up to see murals at Coit Tower and the San Francisco Art Institute. Coit Tower’s murals are from another WPA project, while the Art Institute’s mural is by the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.

Coit Tower as seen from the boat.

Coit Tower as seen from the boat.

DSCN1831 DSCN1838 DSCN1842 DSCN1846 DSCN2007 DSCN2014 DSCN2017DSCN2010After all of that, we went off on our own again. Some of us were bent on trying to ride an old-fashioned trolley, so we walked around for a while to find one, even if it meant it was going the opposite direction from our hotel. But we managed to pack ourselves onto one along with like a million other people. It was totally worth it.DSCN2009 DSCN2019 DSCN2020 DSCN2022Later that evening Ariel, Jessye, and I walked around Chinatown for a bit.20150228_194005 DSCN2023 DSCN2024 DSCN2027 DSCN2028 DSCN2030And for my final photo, because San Francisco, I’ll leave you with this.20150228_193625P.S. This whole time I was saying Azkaban in my head, not Alcatraz. Almost the same thing.

Tagged on: