In 2011, Ai Weiwei spent 81 days in a secret prison under deep surveillance. Two guards were present at all times, watching him eat, sleep, and yes, even defecate. He spent his days being watched in a windowless cell, without knowing what would come next.
The artist, who is known for his political works, has unveiled one of his most personal to date. His installation "S.A.C.R.E.D." is being held at the church of Sant’Antonin in Venice before the city's biennale (though not attached to it). The work is comprised of dioramas that depict scenes from his experience of being held captive. It will be open to the public Saturday.
Each individual diorama is held in a 2 1/2 ton iron box. They show the artist being monitored by guards. Ai said the details were painstakingly rendered from memory. It is a confrontational work, displaying human suffering to visitors who should be prepared for an experience.
One of those who were moved by the installation was Ai’s mother, Gao Ying who began crying after seeing scenes in the work. She didn't talk with journalists who were understandably curious about her feelings. However she was crying as she left the exhibit.