Description of the artwork «Study of perspective. Tiananmen Square»
Study of Perspective is a series of photographs by Ai Weiwei, which he shot for over 20 years (from 1995 to 2017) and which, apparently, has not yet been completed. In each photograph, viewers see, first of all, the artist’s left hand extended forward with his middle finger exposed in an insulting gesture. And only then it becomes clear that Weiwei is showing this very finger to various important institutions, sights and monuments from around the world.
For the most part, the objects pointed by Ai Weiwei’s the middle finger are, in his opinion, symbols of oppression of speech freedom, hindering the people’s empowerment and the spread of democratic values in society. With these photos, the artist is trying to remind viewers that people should represent their own values, and not those created and imposed by someone else.
The very first photograph in this series was taken in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, where hundreds of unarmed protesters were killed during the 1989 Democratic movement protests. By extending his hand with an offensive gesture towards the gate in Tiananmen Square (it is called the Gate of Heavenly Peace, rather ironically), Weiwei sought to express his contempt for the Chinese authorities and their policies. There is another visual subtext in this photo: a hint of the famous picture of 1989 with a lone man standing in front of a column of tanks, a picture which was banned from distribution and reproduction in China.
Other landmarks that Ai Weiwei captured in this series of photographs include the White House in Washington, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Reichstag building in Berlin. Study of Perspective gained worldwide fame after the artist posted these photos on his blog. For this reason Weiwei was detained (once again) and interrogated for a long time by the Chinese police — the authorities, of course, were primarily interested in the picture of Tiananmen Square. After the arrest of the artist, people from all over the world began to publish such photos on the Internet as a gesture of solidarity. Now the photograph Study of Perspective — Tiananmen Square is completely banned in any Chinese media.