b. 1957, China
Rebar 21, 2008
Reinforcement steel in three parts
51 x 206 x 45 cm
Rebar 21 consists of three steel rebars, typically used in conjunction with concrete to enhance the structural integrity of construction projects. Aesthetically arranged here, they carry a deeper and more sombre significance, serving as a stark reminder of the tragic consequences of poor building practices exposed by the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake in China.
The devastating earthquake resulted in the catastrophic collapse of several schools in the rural province of Sichuan, leading to the loss of countless lives, especially among children. Ai Weiwei was deeply affected by this disaster and actively participated in identifying the deceased children, even galvanising a citizens' initiative to do so against significant resistance from the authorities.
In Rebar 21, Ai Weiwei encapsulates the essence of his broader message: to bear witness to history's darkest moments, challenge official narratives, and honour the memory of those who perished in the Sichuan Earthquake.