June 20, 2019
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Ai Weiwei links state violence in Mexico, China

Mexico City, Apr 11 (EFE).- Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's new exhibition here, "Resetting Memories," seeks to link his homeland to Mexico, two nations whose peoples share a history of suffering from state violence.

The exhibition will open Saturday at the University Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC) on the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

"(The exhibit) portrays historical violence in two distant countries but with a common history that is the story of humanity," curator Cuauhtemoc Medina said Thursday at a press conference.

Ai's presentation comprises two elements, Wang Family Ancestral Hall (2015) and LEGO portraits: The Ayotzinapa Case (2019), that interact with each other.

The first thing the visitor sees is a 400-year-old wooden structure with characteristically Chinese floral embellishment that belonged to the Wang family during the Ming Dynasty.

Knocked down during China's communist revolution, Ai bought the pieces and had several Chinese carpenters travel to MUAC to re-assemble the structure using traditional techniques that do without screws or nails.

The second project is composed of the portraits of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa teachers college who were abducted on Sept. 26, 2014, in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero.

The portraits were made by UNAM students using 1 million Lego pieces.

Ai, an artist and political maverick who frequently clashed with the Chinese government and was arrested in 2011, said the he has always been interested in Mexico, but had "little knowledge" about the Latin American country.

When he arrived in Mexico, he visited the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center, where he met the parents of some of the missing students of Ayotzinapa.

It was "just at that moment," Ai said, that he decided to begin the research culminating in the Ayotzinapa project.

The exhibition includes fragments of statements from relatives and friends of the 43 missing students and the handful of survivors of the events of September 2014, which the artist is using to create the documentary "To be."

Ai currently lives in Berlin, driven from China by the hostile response he had when he set out to investigate the deaths of thousands of students in the 2008 earthquake.

The artist doggedly sought answers and his persistence antagonized powerful people in China.

In China "there is no university like this (UNAM) where there is freedom," and the artists who remain in the Asian nation can't address controversial issues, Ai said.

By Ines Amarelo

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