Ai Weiwei: @Large

Presented by FOR-SITE Foundation

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, San Francisco, CA

September 27, 2014 – April 26, 2015

Production | Education Grant 

For this exhibition, internationally renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei created a new body of work specifically for Alcatraz, responding to the island’s layered legacy as a 19th-century military fortress, a notorious federal penitentiary, a site of Native American heritage and protest, and now one of America’s most visited national parks. Revealing new perspectives on Alcatraz, the exhibition raised questions about freedom of expression and human rights that resonate far beyond this particular place. This project was presented by the FOR-SITE Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. 

Ai’s sculpture, sound, and mixed-media installations occupied four locations in the former prison: the New Industries Building; a group of cells in A Block; the Hospital; and the Dining Hall. With the exception of the Dining Hall, these areas are usually restricted to the public, but were open throughout the run of the exhibition. @Large turned Alcatraz into a space for dialogue about how we define liberty and justice, individual rights, and personal responsibility. In artworks that balance political impact with aesthetic grace, the exhibition directly and imaginatively addressed the situation of people around the world who have been deprived of their freedom for speaking out about their beliefs — people like Ai himself.

To learn more, visit FOR-SITE Foundation.

Images: Ai Weiwei, With Wind, 2014 (installation view, New Industries Building, Alcatraz); Yours Truly, 2014 (installation view, Alcatraz Dining Hall); Trace, 2014 (installation detail, New Industries Building, Alcatraz); Blossom, 2014 (installation detail, Alcatraz Hospital); Refraction, 2014 (installation view, New Industries Building, Alcatraz); Stay Tuned, 2014 (installation detail, A Block, Alcatraz); Psychiatric observation room in Alcatraz Hospital, site of Ai Weiwei’s sound installation Illumination, 2014. All photos by Jan Stürmann; courtesy FOR-SITE Foundation.