Today, our exploration to seek origins extended to our familiar place which is the Colby Museum. Through the museum tour conducted by Shalini Le Gall, we discussed the theme of origins in each artworks displayed at the museum from different perspectives of artists.
I was especially inspired to think about origins by one of the artists called Ai Weiwei. He is one of the powerful Chinese contemporary artists and his talents cover a lot of fields in art such as photography, architecture, sculpture, curating and film. He calls his attention to people with his criticism towards to society, politics and culture in China throughout his art pieces. The Colby Museum displays one of his great artworks at Lunder collection called Colored Vases (2006-2008). You can see several beautiful vases colored pop and vividly by several patterns against the original brown color which we can see partially underneath of those bright colors.
The base of the vases itself looked old at a glance but I was surprised to be told that those urns are, in fact, very old antiques which made in roughly 5000-3000 BC during the Neolithic era in China. We started our discussion about the idea of “offensive” somehow we felt when we were looking at those vases. People may think that this offence comes from the action he covered this “precious” vases with colors and he “ruined” them. It is deeply offensive because we can see the marks underneath which give us the information about the label which we can recognize of age as BC, otherwise we are totally fine about this whole project. He claims about those people’s reaction on original things which have been suddenly removed from any kinds of contexts or circulations and are valuated and capitalized by people just in terms of age.
How could we know that those original vases are really valuable? Because it is written? Because someone tell you so? Because they have specific marks which prove that they are ancient artifacts? He also might argues those tendencies that we abandoned to see the real value of objects or goods itself but we tend to assess the things superficially and easily influenced by uncertain information such as prices, names or logo etc. Living in such a mass production world, how can we tell originals apart? It was interesting to think about the authenticity of manufacture and to aware that the origins can be created by someone without noticing. I could see those arguments of Ai Weiwei committed into this artwork.
Ai Weiwei did not deface those original old artifacts but he transformed them into new contemporary art by painting them with colors and tried describing the control value to the original things. Furthermore, he added another value on them which enable people to evoke origins and values for many years to come through his art pieces. Although I have been to the Colby Museum several times, it was good experience to see each art pieces from different perspectives in terms of origins.