‘the brilliance of this intervention lies in the fact that you don’t need to know it’s art to find it interesting’
A seductive and terrifying array of fetishised weapons of mass destruction is mapped across the main hall of the Imperial War Museum in this powerful intervention that – like the museum itself – provokes uneasy thoughts about war, history and the modern world.
Internationally renowned artist, Ai Weiwei, takes over IWM London’s iconic atrium with a new artwork.
Be immersed in this site-specific artwork, as the atrium is given in its entirety to an artist for the first time in the history of the building.
Exploring international migration, conflict as a root cause of human flow, and the relationship between the individual, society and the state, History of Bombs draws on the artist’s ongoing investigation into politics and power.
A global citizen, artist and thinker, Ai Weiwei moves between modes of production and investigation, subject to the direction and outcome of his research, whether into the Chinese earthquake of 2008 (for works such as Straight, 2008-12 and Remembering, 2009) or the worldwide plight of refugees and forced migrants (for Law of the Journey and his feature-length documentary, Human Flow, both 2017). From early iconoclastic positions in regards to authority and history, which included Dropping a Han Dynasty Urnand a series of middle-finger salutes to sites of power, Study of Perspective (both 1995), Ai’s production expanded to encompass architecture, public art and performance.
Beyond concerns of form or protest, Ai now measures our existence in relation to economic, political, natural and social forces, uniting craftsmanship with conceptual creativity. Universal symbols of humanity and community, such as bicycles, flowers and trees, as well as the perennial problems of borders and conflicts are given renewed potency though installations, sculptures, films and photographs, while Ai continues to speak out publicly on issues he believes important. He is one of the leading cultural figures of his generation and serves as an example for free expression both in China and internationally.
History of Bombs is part of Refugees, a free season of exhibitions, artistic commissions and immersive events taking place across IWM London and IWM North in 2020. Unlocking the personal stories of people who have been forced to flee their homes and those who work to support and care for them, Refugees gives us the space to consider our own responses to similar experiences and dilemmas.