Alcatraz is always on my recommendation list for San Francisco bound travelers. It’s one of the most interesting tourist attractions with it’s SF Bay location reachable only by boat, rich history as a military fortress, Native American heritage site and most famously as a federal penitentiary.
And it just got a whole lot more interesting thanks to an installation by artist Ai WeiWei who himself was imprisoned in his homeland of China for his activist ways. Known for his exquisitely crafted works across a host of mediums that speak volumes about the human condition, these works created specifically for this site were crafted in his studio and installed by his assistants half a world away.
“The misconception of totalitarianism is that freedom can be imprisoned. This is not the case. When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill.”
— Ai Weiwei
From top to bottom:
Stay Tuned: 12 A Block cells with sound installations inviting visitors to listen to spoken words, poetry, and music by people who have been detained for the creative expression of their beliefs, as well as works made under conditions of incarceration.
With Wind: A spectacular modern interpretation of a traditional Chinese dragon kite housed in the New Industries Building
Refraction: A 5 ton bird like sculpture constructed from Tibetan solar cooker panels. The piece can only be viewed through cracked and rusted windows of the guards gun gallery above the New Industries Building where prisoners once worked.
Yours Truly: From the Dining Hall, visitors are encouraged go beyond just expanding their awareness of imprisoned activists around the world and correspond with them directly using the specially designed postcards.
Blossom: Utilitarian fixtures in several Hospital Ward cells are filled to the brim with fragile porcelain bouquets.
@Large: Ai WeiWei on Alcatraz is now open through April 26, 2015. Open daily, except major holidays, the exhibition offers admission to parts of Alcatraz not normally on the tour. Tickets are $30 and may be purchased up to 3 months in advance.