Chase Alias' Show :)(: Conceptual Art Photography and Ideas
Iconoclasm rules: how Herzog and de Meuron work with conceptual artist Ai Weiwei on Beijing's new Olympic stadium.
©Hugh Pearman. First published in the RIBA Journal, London, January 2004.
Take one Han dynasty urn. It is more than 2,000 years old. Carefully paint a Coca-Cola logo across it. Then take several decorated Stone Age urns, anything up to 10,000 years old, and paint them white, or in garish colours. Next: gather several Qing dynasty tables and stools, only a few centuries old at most. Cut these up and join them together at unexpected angles. Return to the pots, select a particularly well-proportioned Han jar, hold it over a concrete pavement, and drop it so that it smashes into fragments. After all that, there's only one more thing you can do with Chinese culture. You join forces with Herzog and de Meuron to design Beijing's new Olympic stadium.
The architects have been working closely with Ai Weiwei, the artist responsible for these provocative works. Jacques Herzog remarks that his contribution to the project is important. "Weiwei is someone who tests our ideas," he says. "We have lengthy talks with him about how things work in China today. You cannot just walk into China and do what you have always done. We like to learn from other places, and China is the oldest civilization on the planet. With Ai Weiwei, we find contemporary lines of energy from that tradition."