The series of twelve bronze Zodiac Heads was created in 2010 as public sculptures. Ai Weiwei first exhibited them around the Pulitzer Fountain in New York’s Central Park and since then one of the series is touring around the world. The other one was generously lent by the artist to the National Gallery in Prague as the first of Ai’s works to be presented in the Czech Republic. A monumental site-specific installation for the Big Hall of the Trade Fair Palace will follow next year.
When working on the Zodiac Heads, the artist was, according to his own words, trying to produce a witty and natural installation, that would enliven the serious and grey reality of an American city with its playfulness and straightforwardness. At the same time, however, the work has deep historical context. The heads are exact copies of the statues that had once been placed around a fountain in the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. This place was designed by Jesuit missionaries commissioned by the Emperors of the last Qing dynasty (1644-1911) of the imperial China. The park and its architecture were, however, destroyed in 1860 in the looting that ensued after the Second Opium War. Many of the heads were smuggled away from China, ending up in a number of art collections around the world. Continue reading Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads by Ai Weiwei→
Petr Urban is a philosopher and translator based at the Czech Academy of Sciences where he leads the Department of Contemporary Continental Philosophy (Institute of Philosophy). His expertise lies in the areas of phenomenological philosophy and care ethics. He is author or editor of The Birth of Phenomenology (2010 in German), Phenomenology of the Body (2011 in Czech) and The Early Husserl and the Philosophy of Language (2013 in Czech). Apart from questioning the human-animal line, the conundrum of one´s own body and the ethical implications of care-providing, he also served as a mayor of South-Bohemian village Bednárec.
After studying anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, Frédéric Keck has published many works on Claude Lévi-Strauss and conducted ethnographic research on health crises caused by animal diseases, firstly at the Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Aliments (2005-2007) then at the Hong Kong Pasteur Research Centre (2007-2009). Such research led him to publish several journal editions and collective books, as well as a book in the form of a traveller’s tale (Un Monde Grippé, 2010). Awarded many times, he is a member of the Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Sociale based at the Collège de France, where he headed the team on “Human/Animal Relations: Contemporary Issues” (with Claude Ferret) and the project “Social Representations of Pathogens on the Boundaries of Species”, which received support from the Axa Research Fund (2013-2016). He is currently the head of the Department of Research and Education of Quai Branly Museum in Paris.
A Professor of philosophy at the Franche-Comté University (in Besançon), Corinne Pelluchon focuses on political philosophy and ethics. Her many publications encompass many topics, from medical ethics to the animal question (Eléments pour une éthique de la vulnérabilité. Les hommes, les animaux, la nature, 2011), and the philosophy of environment. She lately focused on the question of the body and life (Tu ne tueras point. Réflexions sur l’actualité de l’interdit du meurtre, 2013 andLes Nourritures. Philosophie du corps politique, 2015).