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Bird’s Nest Stadium: China’s Olympics Irony

August 9, 2008

A Work of Art and Reason

A Work of Art and Reason

We have heard a great deal about the ongoing Olympics in Beijing, China. Let the story grace the pages of tabloids and newspages. But there’s one great story anybody who loves Life and man’s ingenuity should know. Thanks to information technology, to YouTube in particular, because I was able to update myself not only with, well, the Olympic craze ongoing in China, but also with that crowning jewel that is now the center of attraction of the historic sports event. This work of art and reason will soon take the realm of architecture and design by storm. For no one, not even the force of the most powerful country’s artillery and the sight of combative legions of armies could stop the power of reason. Bird’s Nest is not just a monument of human courage and sportsmanship, it is a testimony as well of human ability and ingenuity amidst the idiocy and hypocrisy of what we call society. Really, it’s too beautiful to be there. It is the fountainhead of man’s artistic talent, and its being there, standing tall above the traditional architectures of China that collectively depict the communist country’s oppression and pretense, is itself a statement of triumph— a glorious victory over collective stupidity and autocratic tragedy.

If you look at the totality of the stadium— its magnificence and grandeur— you will certainly feel inexplicable awe and admiration. But then try to look deeper into the meaning of its chaotic shape and highly complex design. This great work of art is itself an expression of both ability and revulsion.

It is there, standing proud and strong, but with a powerful message to the society deceitfully designed by the dictators of ideological structures. Its imposing beauty cannot be denied— that it is as if its creator designed it in a way as to intimidate— and humiliate— all traditional and dogmatic structures heavily entrenched at the core of China’s Red society

Many say Bird’s Nest Stadium is a work of art; but I say with conviction and pride, that it is an incredible work of reason. It is more than an architectural feat; it is philosophy unto itself. In this modern world, such an architectural monument represents a concrete philosophy, as opposed to the abstract ones, with a profound message not only to collectivist China and its oppressive rulers but to the fainthearted, doubting world as well.

To know what message this Work of Reason would like to tell, it is important to know the structure’s creator and designer.

Ai Weiwei, the man who breathed life into the now remarkable Bird’s Nest Stadium, is not like any other artists you have ever heard. Of course he was amazed to see the concrete, real-life form of his architectural vision, but he felt disgust to see that the $400 million stadium he designed has now become a proud emblem of the socialist country’s progress. He is unhappy to see that behind the greatness of the stadium collectively conceptualized and constructed by men of individual talent and ability, is a tragic scene of social squalor, of political tyranny and ideological lies that continue to deceive the masses.

Of course, like any other great men who walked this woeful world, Weiwei is proud to witness the greatness of his design; however, as a man of reason and ability; it pains him to see that the same is now being used by China’s presidium to fool not just its people but the world as well.

Disappointed by the irrational actuations of China’s politicians, Weiwei told reporters: “I’ve already forgotten about it. I turn down all the demands to have photographs with it. He added that he is “not interested” in the end result of the project. “I would feel ashamed if I just designed something for glamour or to show some kind of fake image.”

The now renowned stadium is characterized by chaotic and complex design patterned with bird’s nest. From afar, you would mistake it for a giant nest made with metal and structural steel.

For the communists, they would interpret the design as a symbol of a multitude of working masses formed together to provide strong support to their society. Such an interpretation would be ironic if not hilarious.

To men like Weiwei, his design, as stated above, represents man’s ingenuity and revulsion. It is ingenuity because he designed a structure that is ought to live, and deserves sincere appreciation. The stadium, however, expresses revulsion, because instead of following the traditional dogma in Chinese architecture, Weiwei intransigently conceptualised a design that was intended for the purpose of the structure to be constructed.

During its construction, so many traditional “intellectuals” and architectural critics censured the overall design of the Bird’s Nest stadium. Many called it a gigantic “waste”. They even requested the communist government to stop the construction of the building.

Weiwei best described these people and their ilk in one sentence— “Those people are such opportunists and they just become part of the powerful manipulators because they have no self-consciousness and have such bad taste.”

Without a doubt, Bird’s Nest Stadium is now an integral part of the just started 2008 Beijing Olympics. Such is now a case of beauty amidst squalor.

Please read the Interview of Weiwei published in New York Times:

Q: What inspired you in designing the National Stadium? Can you describe the design process?

Ai Weiwei: The design concept for the National Stadium came from a complete “emptiness,” when Herzog & de Meuron and I were talking about the initial plan before we started on the actual design. We emptied our minds, which made it possible for us to find the best points from aesthetics and practicality. The rationale of the structure, its exterior and interior appearance, called for a maximization and unification of aesthetic functions and actual needs. The sense of totality was critical in the initial conception of the design. During the process, we were anxious and excited. We hoped to produce a language that possesses a unique form that is able to support many functional requirements. The entire design process was carefree and fun, it seemed very clear and obvious, free of any obstructions of traditional notions.

Q: Are you going to the opening ceremony?

Ai: I’m not attending the opening ceremony, I’m not interested in it, and I haven’t received any invitation. If I need to be more clear on why I’m not willing to be part of the ceremony, it’s that I think it’s too far from the spirit of freedom. I’ve always thought of this ceremony as a product of government bureaucracy, rather than a natural celebration and expression generated among free citizens. I feel that there are too many regrets in this ceremony, which could make me unhappy.

Q: You’ve coined the phrase, “pretend smile,” as a label for China’s Olympic effort. Why?

Ai: I did say it’s a “pretend smile.” I was questioning whether it’s possible for a society that doesn’t have democracy to excite the joys and celebrations of its people. And is it possible for such a society to win international recognition and approval when liberty and freedom of expression are lacking? There are all kinds of efforts under way that are means for stricter and tighter control. When these new security rules and restrictions are put in place, how can one smile and perform, cheer and pose?

Q: What disappoints you about China’s Olympic effort?

Ai: The biggest disappointment is that China has fallen short of its promises, which is, “One World One Dream,” or to show the world a “New China, New Beijing, New Olympics.” I doubt there’s anything new here. What we’re seeing are the deep-rooted lack of courage and confidence, and the want for real happiness and civil participation. Instead, we see more of inept management and a blind sense of self-defense.

The Chinese society is undoubtedly bound for more freedom and democracy, and the Olympics are a great opportunity to show the world our longing for, as well as effort to achieve, democracy and freedom, rather than the opposite.

Q: How can China benefit from the Olympics?

Ai: Maybe China and its people will further realize that today’s world cannot be divided. China has common political, cultural and economic interests with the rest of the world. The only way for it to produce wonders is to leave behind its ideologies, and to become a free society.

Q: What would you like to see the international community walk away with from the Beijing Olympics?

Ai: No matter what reasons, separation and rejection shouldn’t be an effective way of political interaction in today’s world. China needs help from the rest of the world, and the world cannot exclude China’s influence, nor deny new possibilities created by a developing China. There are huge biases and naïve judgments in the world’s understanding of China, which comes as a result of historical estrangement of ideologies and politics. These biases impede today’s political and economic development, and lead to losses on many fronts. The Olympic Games are a chance for the world to deepen its understanding of China — its culture and character — as well as the possibilities this country holds in this new time under changing structures.

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