Ai Weiwei’s towering, geometric Forever Bicycles installation is made from nearly 2,000 stainless steel bicycles arranged into hypnotic forms that loom over viewers and passersby. Although the bikes are stationary, their arrangement gives the impression that they’re constantly in motion. Using bicycles as a building medium has particular poignancy: bikes are symbols of freedom and movement, and being trapped in stasis like this is a strong commentary on aspects of life in China’s city centers, such as employment in mass production warehouses, the frequency of traffic jams, and the absence of many personal freedoms.
Forever Bicycles in Toronto, Photo (cc) Cameron Norman
Ai Weiwei’s towering, geometric Forever Bicycles installation has awed audiences around the world, from Toronto’s Nuit Blanche to the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. The series takes its name from a popular Chinese bicycle manufacturer Yong Jiu (translation: forever). By arranging the bicycle forms in tightly ordered labyrinthine sculptures, the artist creates a representation of mass production, replication and the “changing social environment in China and around the globe.” The series has taken various forms in installations around the globe, from Toronto to Taipei, however, in this most recent incarnation, Ai Weiwei was unable to participate in the installation of the sculpture due to restrictions imposed by the Chinese Government, which prevent him from leaving his home country.
Lead image © Laura Bushell