A dear friend treated me to the ferry ride and exhibition "@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz" in late April, just before its 7-month run ended. (It should be permanent.) It was unlike any other visit to an art installation I've ever experienced. For one thing, I'd never been to Alcatraz before. I was familiar with its history--such famous prisoners as Al Capone and Robert "The Birdman" Stroud as well as the occupation of the island (1969 to 1971) by 89 Native Americans who called themselves Indians of All Tribes (IOAT).
The contrast between the two installations was palpable: The brightly colored, light kites floated freely through the air while the stationery faces were down on the ground.
The last stop was the dining hall of the Cellhouse, where "Yours Truly," the final part of the exhibition, encouraged a global conversation. My friend and I were invited to select postcards already addressed to individual prisoners of conscience and write any message we thought to offer them. We sat down and filled out a bunch. When I questioned whether they'd ever reach the prisoners, a young docent shared some stories that buoyed our hopes. We learned how much those postcards mean to people in isolation. When the cards do manage to find their way to some prisoners, they help sustain them, for they demonstrate that someone cared enough to let them know they've not been forgotten.
Today the whole world is struggling for freedom...In such a situation, only art can reveal the deep inner voice of every individual with no concern for political borders, nationality, race, or religion.
Is there something greater that you surrender to in creating art? How do you describe it?
If you believe art is useful in issues of social justice, how can it play a direct/indirect role?
Do you consider yourself an artist-activist? If so, how do you express that?