The former maximum-security island prison of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay is hosting a tribute to political prisoners of the world.
The installation “@ large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz” is an exhibition by the dissident Chinese artist.
Ai is under house arrest in his own country, on what supporters say are bogus tax charges.
Curator Cheryl Haines, also Executive Director of the FOR-SITE Foundation, said: “He (Ai Weiwei) thought it was a very appropriate site for his work because of not only the history of detainment here but also the history of protest.”
Ninety volunteers in San Francisco assembled the exhibits from instructions prepared by Ai and crews working with him in Beijing. Alcatraz stopped being used as a prison in 1963 and now gets 1.6 million tourists each year.
Greg Moore, President and CEO of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, said: “They (tourists) know about a certain era of the federal penitentiary when Al Capone and gangsters were put into Alcatraz. Ai Weiwei opens up the deeper story: of what incarceration means, of what detainment means, what are human rights and what is political imprisonment.”
An outspoken critic of his government, Ai cannot travel freely.
A foreign ministry statement went as follows: “China is a country ruled by law. China’s relevant department will handle Chinese citizens’ departures according to regulations.”
Ai spent nearly three months in prison in China in 2011.
Through art, he pushes boundaries. Refusing to vanish, Ai named the main work on Alcatraz “Trace”.