You are now in the main content area

Registration open for Ai Weiwei Free School workshops

Held at the Gardiner Museum, the event is co-presented by the Jack Layton Chair and the Office of Social Innovation
By: Deborah Smyth
February 28, 2019
Ai Weiwei

Inspired by the exhibition Ai Weiwei: Unbroken, which opens February 28 at the Gardiner Museum, four AWW Free School workshops are designed to bring the exhibit to life. Photo courtesy of Ai Weiwei’s studio.

Renowned artist and activist Ai Weiwei is known for smashing boundaries – and pottery – with many of his iconic art pieces.

An exhibition of his major ceramic works, Ai Weiwei: Unbroken, will debut at the Gardiner Museum on February 28, 2019.

“It’s a mixed society, it’s a kind of energy that can lead to miracles,” said Weiwei of exhibiting his work in Toronto, “the diversity, inclusiveness, tolerance and willingness to accept and connect.”

In conjunction with the exhibit, a four-session AWW Free School program will expand on the ideas and themes presented by Weiwei’s work.

“The programming is designed to bring life to the exhibit, each program refers back to Weiwei’s art,” said Ken Moffatt, the Ryerson Jack Layton Chair and co-presenter of the AWW Free School with Melanie Panitch, director of the Office of Social Innovation. “We wanted to also involve students in political commentary and multiple modes of learning and creativity, in a throwback to the ‘free schools’ of the 1970s and ’80s, since it’s free education, you don’t have to pay for the experience, just register.”

Black and white photo of world-renowned artist dropping an urn

Above, the artist is featured in his iconic work, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995). Photo courtesy of Ai Weiwei’s studio.

AWW Free School workshops

March 5: Embodied Narratives
Tara Farahani, arts and community services artist-in-residence at Ryerson, opens the series with ceramic artist and community educator Zahra Komeylian. Farahani will lead a spoken-word exercise with writing prompts, Komeylian will give a clay work session, and then the two will join forces for a surprise combined activity together.

“I want folks to engage in the practice of writing,” Farahani said. “It’s not about writing for a profession or to get published but to get people writing and engaged in the act.”

During the session, participants will be prompted with a suggested topic and encouraged to write about it. “I find it interesting that even if you start with something light, such as ‘speak to a smell that you like,’ people start writing about the smell but then get into deeper feelings,” said Farahani.

Farahani’s own creative non-fiction work is about reflection and she sees parallels between writing and the art of Ai Weiwei.

“When I look at his work, at first it just looks like a beautiful piece of ceramics, with an intricate design, very beautiful, traditional,” said Farahani. “But if you look deeper, you get a different meaning out of it. With writing, as well, you can keep things on the surface or try to convey something deeper that you can appreciate on different levels.”

In addition to her own writing and residency work, in May, Farahani is co-launching a zine, Not for You, external link, focusing on the voices of racialized women and non-binary people (accepting submissions, external link until March 10).

She hopes participants in the workshop will feel more in tune with their own voices after participating.

“In our lives we don’t always tune into ourselves, we’re hustling with work and school, especially students,” she said. “I want them to come to the space and experience these different art practices through their bodies and minds and leave with a sense of mindfulness and presence.”

March 19: Documenting Dissent
Winnie Ng, labour rights activist and Ryerson distinguished visiting scholar, leads an in-gallery workshop on dissent, democracy and student activism. Afterwards, Nataleah Hunter-Young, media artist and Ryerson doctoral student, will show two films about Canadian state violence.

April 2: Fake News
Writer and video artist R.M. Vaughn and Michelle da Silva from NOW Magazine will lead a workshop on how to find truth in journalism in the current media climate.

April 16: Extreme Music Therapy
This in-gallery heavy metal listening exercise will be facilitated by Carla Gillis, writer, musician and therapist-in-training, followed by metal performances by Vile Creature, Chris Colohan, and more.

June 4: Key Note Panel
Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square student protests and massacre, a keynote panel will include author and journalist Jan Wong and Olivia Chow, distinguished visiting professor at Ryerson and core member of the Toronto Association of Democracy in China, among others.

All workshops are open to the public with free admission, and Ryerson students get priority admission. The events will also be live blogged by Ryerson students. For more information or to register, visit the Gardiner Museum website, external link.

More News