Breaking the Wall of Numbness: Artists Ai Weiwei and Olafur Eliasson Launch their First Collaboration

For the first time, artists Ai Weiwei and Olafur Eliasson will collaborate on a common project and appear together at the Falling Walls Conference in Berlin. While Eliasson will be on stage at the Radialsystem, Ai Weiwei will join the conference via live video from his studio in China. Together they will present their latest work - a digital public platform celebrating the freedom of expression.

Olafur Eliasson and Ai Weiwei are both visionary and leading figures of the art world. With their upcoming project they will explore the power of digital and social media as a space for interaction and creative expression beyond external borders.

Ai Weiwei is a frequent user of digital media, using Twitter, Instagram and other online social forums for international correspondence and as a medium for his artistic work. One of the most prominent Chinese dissidents, Weiwei openly displays his critical view of the Chinese government and its human rights violations, in particular the lack of freedom of speech. He has paid for both his activism and critical art with time in prison for alleged economic crimes against the state, and the loss of his Shanghai studio space, which was demolished under official orders. The authorities have not yet returned his passport, preventing him from attending his numerous shows outside China, including his recent participation at the Venice Biennale, or commencing his work as a visiting professor at the Berlin University of the Arts. Despite these constraints, Ai Weiwei continues to use art and digital media to promote individualism among his fellow citizens.

Olafur Eliasson has a unique ability to challenge the conventions of space, time and society in the city by melding emotions with the mechanics of perception. Named “a model for a future art” by the NY Times, Eliasson built artificial waterfalls along the shorelines of Manhattan and Brooklyn, dyed rivers green in Los Angeles, Stockholm and Tokyo, and staged a sunset in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern. Eliasson’s Berlin studio is a creative factory of over seventy professionals from the most diverse backgrounds.

As a professor at the Berlin University of the Arts, Eliasson set up the Institute for Spatial Experiments in his Studio, an experiment in alternative arts education. Eliasson is co- founder of Little Sun GmbH, a social entrepreneurship to distribute his Little Sun solar lamp in off-grid regions around the world.

At the 2013 Falling Walls Conference, Olafur Eliasson hosts the opening session and introduces an unprecedented collaboration with artist and activist Ai Weiwei, connected via web broadcast from Beijing. Together, they address the topics of freedom and creative collaboration with an ambitious public platform. 

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