2. So Sorry/Remembering by Ai Weiwei, 2008/2009
In 2008, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Sichuan, China, leading to the collapse of a number of schools and the deaths of thousands of children. The exact number of students that perished during the quake was never released. That didn't stop Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei from launching his own investigation into the shoddy workmanship of the schools, due to lax governmental regulations—at least 9,000 children died. At first, Ai Weiwei simply posted the names of the dead on his infamously radical blog. He later reprised the piece as part of a retrospective called So Sorry, referring to the rote apologies governments, corporations, and other large, publicly complicit bodies give to stave off any responsibility in the wake of disaster. A year later, he created the public installation Remembering, on the facade of Munich's Haus der Kunst. The work was comprised of nine thousand backpacks, spelling out the phrase, "She lived happily for seven years in this world" in Chinese characters. It was a quote from the mother of one of the children who died. "The lives of the students disappeared within the state propaganda, and very soon everybody will forget everything," Ai Weiwei said of the project.