"We only move into the 21st century on the foundation of things that have been established long, long ago."
How do artists respond to a world in flux? In what ways do artists act as agents of change, and what kinds of aesthetic choices do they make to express it? This episode features artists who bear witness, through their work, to transformation—cultural, material, and aesthetic—and actively engage communities as collaborators and subjects.
Ai Weiwei infuses his sculptures, photographs, and public artworks with personal poetry and political conviction, often making use of recognizable and historic Chinese art forms in critical examinations of a host of contemporary Chinese social and political issues. In sculptures of clay, wood, and metal El Anatsui uses and explores materials and formal elements that relate to his aesthetic and cultural environment, exemplifying change and revealing the eternal cycle of all things—destruction, transformation, and regeneration. Catherine Opie investigates the ways in which photographs both document and give voice to social phenomena in America today. Working between conceptual and documentary approaches to image making, she examines the familiar genres of portraiture, landscape, and studio photography in surprising uses of serial images, unexpected compositions, and the pursuit of radically different subject matters.