Becoming

Ai Weiwei's Becoming print portfolio explores the themes of growth and transformation through a series of thought-provoking photographs, which document the construction of a new Beijing airport terminal.

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Meaning & Analysis

Becoming (2009) is a collection of photographic prints in album format created by Ai Weiwei. The project focuses on documenting the construction of a new airport terminal at Beijing Airport, designed by renowned architect-developer Norman Foster. This terminal's construction represented a significant milestone for China, as it marked a shift in the country's foreign policy and its engagement with the global community. The airport became a symbolic gateway, enabling trade and cross-border interactions with the rest of the world, after a period of relative isolation following the civil war in 1949. Furthermore, the establishment of the airport in Beijing reflects Ai Weiwei's intention to delve into the region's complex and diverse identity, which has experienced a somewhat distinct status within China throughout the years.

Each of the 147 photographic prints captures the essence of transformation and ‘becoming’, through the visual metaphor of the airport; capturing the vast scale of construction through photographs of scaffolds, bare concrete structures, and so on. The visual language in Becoming varies from introspective and introspective to bold and confrontational, reflecting the multifaceted nature of the transformation process. As well as meditating directly on the sheer scale of labour and process behind a country’s economic growth, Ai Weiwei encourages a more interior reflection in the viewer; the meditative, barren nature of many of the images urges viewers to reflect on the ever-changing, metamorphic nature of existence itself. Through his art, Ai Weiwei frequently prompts us to question fixed notions of self and embrace the potential for growth and change. The Becoming portfolio encompasses the entanglement of individual and collective transformations, revealing the interconnectedness of personal development and societal progress.

By embracing the theme of becoming, Ai invites us to embrace change and recognise the potential for personal growth and societal advancement. His artworks challenge us to re-evaluate fixed narratives and embrace the fluidity of identity, ultimately empowering us to actively participate in shaping a more inclusive and equitable world. Becoming serves as a visual testament to the transformative power of art and its capacity to inspire change at both an individual and collective level. Through Ai's exploration of the theme, we are reminded of the endless possibilities that arise when we not only embrace but also interrogate transformation and strive for a better future.

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