The dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who is currently banned from leaving China, is creating a major work for this summer’s Emscherkunst triennial art festival (22 June-6 October), to be held in the Ruhr region in western Germany.

Aus der Aufklärung (Out of enlightenment) will consist of 1,000 tents, installed along the Emscher river. The festival, now in its second edition, is closely tied to a €4.5bn eco-project, scheduled for completion in 2020, that is designed to bring the river back to life after 100 years of industrial pollution. The festival is spread out over 47 sq. km between the participating cities of Duisburg, Dinslaken, Oberhausen, Essen, Bottrop and Gelsenkirchen.

Ai is currently overseeing the production of the tents, each of which will be unique and able to house two or three people, in his Beijing studio. Visitors will be able to rent them for the night for “a low, symbolic price”, says the festival’s curator, Florian Matzner. “The idea is to let normal [sic] people participate, and their activities will give the… work its sense.” The installation carries numerical and conceptual echoes of Ai’s Fairytale People project at Documenta 12 in 2007, for which he brought 1,001 of his compatriots to the town of Kassel, encouraging them to interact with the city and record their impressions. The work was accompanied by Fairytale, 2007, an installation of 1,001 historic chairs from China.


Ermanno Rivetti and Julia Michalska
The Art Newspaper