Ai Weiwei has sure been on one hell of a roller coaster ride over the past year. In short, the artist was unlawfully arrested in mid-2011 and held for over two months without any official charges being filed. His book Circle of Animals, inspired by the Zodiac Fountain of the Haiyan Tang, gives the reader an introspective glimpse into his life and his love for public art. His belief is that most public sculptures are “too much ego without much humour,” which is an astute observation of what it means to be faced with a piece of public art. Are we looking at sculptures as wonderful, conceptual designs meant to hold significant meaning? Or, are we looking at them to serve as landmarks in a city? Weiwei emphatically agrees with the latter — which is entirely why he chose to get involved in reinventing what it means to design and display public art.
In Chapter Four, there is an extensive history lesson on the inspiration behind the original work that Weiwei chose to use as inspiration for Circle of Animals. The information is not only intriguing, but it also gives the reader the knowledge behind the art. If you’re fascinated by Chinese science and cosmology, then you may want to give this book a thorough read through. While the information may be a little heavy for some to digest, it’s without a doubt eye opening.