Why WeiWei? Chinese Artist Lets a Thousand Compatriots Loose on Kassel

Chinese artist Ai WeiWei is bringing 1,001 of his compatriots to Germany to take part in the prestigious Documenta art show. The live exhibits, who will form an installation called "Fairytale," will wander around Kassel -- but are not allowed to leave the city.

It's hard to make a splash in the art world these days. Bodily fluids, pornographic images, giant blocks of lard -- it's all been done already.

But Chinese artist Ai WeiWei has found a way to get himself noticed at this year's Documenta, the prestigious art show which takes place every five years in Kassel. He's bringing 1,001 of his compatriots to the provincial German city to take part in an installation called "Fairytale."

The 1,001 live "exhibits" began arriving in Kassel on Tuesday evening. The participants, who will live in a dormitory for the duration of the show, come from all social classes and include teachers, farmers, students, police officers, engineers and pensioners.

The live exhibits will have no set program or commitments during their stay. Instead, they will be encouraged to visit the city's sights, interact with locals and examine other exhibits in the art show. The only conditions are that they are not allowed to leave Kassel and they have to document their impressions for Ai WeiWei. "They can move around freely but should preferably not walk around in a block," the artist said.

"Fairytale" is the most expensive exhibit in this year's Documenta, costing a whopping €3.1 million ($4.14 million). The project will be accompanied by the presentation of 1,001 historic chairs from China.

Documenta 12  begins next Saturday in Kassel and runs until September 23.


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