Screening now: Ai Weiwei's Heaven and Earth opera
8 June 2020
On view from 8 – 15 June is Ai Weiwei's epic six-hour opera of 2014, Heaven and Earth, which brings a marathon re-enactment of a real life court case to the stage. Ai uses the traditional form of the Yu Opera and a trained troupe of singers to recreate the case in forensic detail, using the court's 198-page transcript of the first trial against Fake Ltd, the artist's Beijing-based company.
The proceedings, played out to a small audience by actors and singers from a renowned opera troupe in Henan, reveal a surreal account of accusations that have never led to a sentence. This trial followed soon after his secret detention and saw Ai under continuous, close surveillance and without a passport. This period between 2011-2015 was generative of many art works that handled the subject of surveillance, injustice, freedom of speech, as well as the artist's divergences with the Chinese authorities.
This screening coincides with the planned, but now postponed, run of Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot, directed by Ai, now scheduled to take place in Rome next year. This second programme of week-long Spotlights focuses on documentary-form films by and about our artists, as well as works that play on themes of tradition and historical fiction, mirroring how our cultural systems create alternate narratives.
Click through here to watch the film in full.