• Ai Weiwei; Photo: Ai Weiwei Studio

  • Peter Sellars

  • Orville Schell

Ai Weiwei’s World of Art Lost and Found: A Conversation About Life, Art, and Politics : Ai Weiwei with Peter Sellars and Orville Schell

Off-site Program; Copresented by Cal Performances, BAMPFA, and the Townsend Center for the Humanities.

Returning to the UC Berkeley campus for the first time in fifteen years, renowned artist and human rights activist Ai Weiwei discusses art, politics, and modern life in a conversation with stage and film director Peter Sellars and Orville Schell, director of the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society. Ai’s unprecedented installation on Alcatraz in 2014–15, @Large, left an enduring mark on the Bay Area’s cultural landscape, an effort the Los Angeles Times called “an always-poignant, often-powerful meditation on soul-deadening repressions of human thought and feeling.” Ai addresses issues of exile, imprisonment, repression, and advocacy that have infused his personal life and artistic work with fellow artist Sellars, himself an avid student of Chinese history and culture, and Schell, a leading expert on China and the Far East. This program continues a series of campus talks about China led by Schell, who is former dean at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

About the Speakers

Ai Weiwei (b. 1957; Beijing, China) leads a diverse and prolific practice that encompasses sculptural installation, filmmaking, photography, ceramics, painting, writing, and social media. A conceptual artist who fuses traditional craftsmanship and his Chinese heritage, Ai moves freely between a variety of formal languages to reflect on the contemporary geopolitical and sociopolitical condition. Ai’s work and life regularly interact and inform each other, often extending to his activism and advocacy for international human rights.

Ai has exhibited extensively at institutions and biennials worldwide, including at the Design Museum, London (2023); Albertina Modern, Vienna (2022); Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto (2021); Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf (2019); Oca—Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo (2018); Public Art Fund, New York (2017); Israel Museum, Jerusalem (2017); Palazzo Strozzi, Florence (2016); Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh (2016); National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2015); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2015); Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2014); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2014); German Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale, Venice (2013); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (2012); Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei (2011); Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London (2010); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2009); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2009); documenta 12, Kassel (2007); and Kunsthalle Bern, Bern (2004). The artist’s memoir, 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, was published in 2021. Ai lives and works in Beijing ; Berlin; Cambridge, UK; and Lisbon Portugal.

Director Peter Sellars has gained international renown for his groundbreaking and transformative interpretations of classics, his advocacy of twentieth-century and contemporary music, and his collaborative projects. His work illuminates the power of art as a means of moral expression and social action. Sellars has staged operas at the Dutch National Opera, English National Opera, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opéra National de Paris, and the Salzburg Festival, among others. He has also collaborated on the creation and production of many works with composers John Adams and Kaija Saariaho.

Recent productions include Tyshawn Sorey’s Monochromatic Light (Afterlife) for the Park Avenue Armory (New York), Heinrich Schütz’s Musikalische Exequien with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, a revival of Tristan und Isolde at the Opera de Paris, and a staging of Sorey’s Perle Noire: Meditations for Josephine at the Dutch National Opera. Upcoming in 2023/24 are new productions of Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Medee in Berlin and Vincenzo Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda in Paris.

Sellars has led several major arts festivals, including the 1990 and 1993 Los Angeles Festivals and the 2002 Adelaide Arts Festival. In 2006 he was artistic director of New Crowned Hope, a festival in Vienna for which he invited emerging and established artists from diverse cultural backgrounds to create new work in the fields of music, theater, dance, film, the visual arts, and architecture for the celebration of Mozart’s 250th birthday. He served as the music director of the 2016 Ojai Music Festival.

Sellars is a distinguished professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA and the founding director of the Boethius Institute at UCLA. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, Erasmus Prize for contributions to European culture, the Gish Prize, and the Polar Music Prize, and he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Orville Schell is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on US-China Relations and vice resident at the Asia Society and a former professor and dean at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Born in New York City, Schell graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University with a major in Far Eastern history, studied Chinese language at Stanford University, studied as an exchange student at National Taiwan University, and earned his PhD (ABD) at UC Berkeley in Chinese history.

Schell has worked for the Ford Foundation in Indonesia, covered the war in Indochina as a journalist, and traveled widely in China since the mid-1970s. He is the author of numerous books. His most recent work is My Old Home: A Novel of Exile, published in 2021. Prior to that, he coauthored Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the 21st Century with John Delury, and he published Mandate of Heaven: The Legacy of Tiananmen Square and the Next Generation of China’s Leaders, Virtual Tibet: Searching for Shangri-la from the Himalayas to Hollywood, Discos and Democracy: China in the Throes of Reform, Watch Out for the Foreign Guests: China Encounters the West, To Get Rich Is Glorious: China in the 80s, and the four-volume The China Reader.

Schell has been awarded a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and a Smith Richardson Foundation grant, and he is the recipient of an Overseas Press Club Award, a Menken Award, and a Harvard-Stanford Shorenstein Prize in Asian Journalism. He currently serves as a fellow at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University and a senior fellow at the Annenberg School of Communications at USC. He also cochairs the Task Force on US -China Policy with Susan Shirk from UCSD.

Copresented by Cal Performances, BAMPFA, and the Townsend Center for the Humanities.

Event Accessibility

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