ai weiwei, @large, alcatraz, with wind, san francisco, ai weiwei alcatraz, green design, politics, political art, green art, green design, sustainable design, alcatraz prison, kites, dragon kite, handmade kite, green materials, freedom, freedom of expression

Ai Weiwei’s With Wind installation greets visitors with a colorful explosion of paper forms that take flight within the former prison. The dragon is a symbol of power and freedom, however its paper construction is delicate. Its constrained position creates tension between the mythical and the real; the concept of freedom and the cold, hard walls that contain it. The vibrant dragon is joined by smaller kites representing flowers and birds – symbols of freedom and life that reflect the gardens outside and the site’s role as a flourishing avian habitat.

ai weiwei, @large, alcatraz, with wind, san francisco, ai weiwei alcatraz, green design, politics, political art, green art, green design, sustainable design, alcatraz prison, kites, dragon kite, handmade kite, green materials, freedom, freedom of expression

Ai Weiwei has a history of working with skilled Chinese craftsmen to create his large-scale artworks. Kite making is a dying craft in China, so Ai Weiwei supported the industry by working with artisans who handmade the kites using silk, paper, and bamboo. The artist teamed up with the FOR-SITE Foundation to install the installation in the New Industries building on Alcatraz. The building housed “privileged” prisoners who were offered the opportunity to work as a reward for good behavior. Work offered an escape from boredom and isolation, and it could earn prisoners a shorter sentence – hence the building’s connection with freedom and personal expression.

+ @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz

+ Ai Weiwei

+ Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy

Photos by Mike Chino for Inhabitat