Controversial artist and activist Ai Weiwei is set for a new collaboration with Pritzker Prize-winning architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron in New York this summer. In a new large-scale, site-specific exhibition at Park Avenue Armory, the trio will consider the implication of private space in a world where our daily movements are increasingly tracked through CCTV. Hansel and Gretel — which is co-curated by Tom Eccles and Hans Ulrich Obrist — finds inspiration in the world of the fairytale duo “in which the children lose their way and feel a sense of menace in a space they know and trust” — and flips it, giving visitors no choice by to leave a trail through their very presence.
The building’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall and the first floor of the Head House will be transformed into a disorientating installation terrain populated with infrared cameras and drones to generate a modern day rendering of the fairytale, with the audience playing the parts of Hansel and Gretel. The footage will be fed to a surveillance laboratory which the audience can visit, completing the circle between observer and observed.
“My experience of working with Jacques and Pierre is that we never think separately,” Ai Weiwei has stated of the 15 years the trio have collaborated. “It’s like three soldiers in the war — and that’s a good feeling: we have a constant understanding.”
Pierre Audi, the Armory’s Artistic Director commented that “Hansel and Gretel extends dynamic creative synergies that exist between the practices of Jacques, Pierre, and Weiwei and adds a new dimension to the imaginative, monumental work they’ve created together. Weiwei is an artist who has an innate understanding of the impact that built environments have on the artistic experience—as well as the direct experience of being watched 24/7. Jacques and Pierre bring deep experience of the emotional interplay between the public and private domain. Together they provide the ideal complement in pushing each other’s practices.”