Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow leaves viewers in no doubt

By Lucy Ogilvie-Grant, Parent

Human-Flow-PS-cropThe Geography department hosted a screening of Human Flow in the SLT on Tuesday evening – a wonderful opportunity to see a quite extraordinary film made by Chinese conceptual artist and political activist Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei has personal experience of the agonies of refugee-hood and isolation, having endured exile along with his family. He described how it feels “when life itself is a dimming light on the verge of being completely extinguished” and this surely is the engine that drives his understanding and evident compassion for the individuals who become refugees.

The terrifying experiences and arduous journeys that refugees endure, as shown in Human Flow, leave people despondent and exhausted – rarely do arrivals find a generous or compassionate welcome.

It’s clear to see that razor wire and dog patrols, high fences and forcible removal show that, on a  humanitarian level, the developed world is failing. Ai Weiwei proposes an enormous change of attitude in which we could see people’s struggles for basic necessities prioritised over financial gain. Imagining a life lived in a refugee camp, suspended between a violent past and an unimaginable future, it’s easy to understand how young people could be vulnerable to radicalisation.

There are some breathtakingly beautiful visual images in Human Flow – Ai Weiwei makes it impossible to look away from the burning oil fields, dust-storms and wind-torn tents.  Even his pictures of desperate crowds wrapped in foil heat blankets are works of art, something that leaves one with a distinct sense of unease. There are extraordinary drone shots and some tender and moving still-life portrait ‘studio’ shots. The whole montage, although long, could leave no viewer in doubt that there’s a different and less short-sighted way to approach this immense human migration.

 

 

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Sister school in China welcomes Bedales

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When one is given an opportunity as surreal and fascinating as visiting China one has to take it with open arms. That is what our group of 15 did over half term during our visit. After minor incidents with flat tyres and baggage overload, we left school in a very Bedalian manner. After a long flight we started our adventure in Beijing. Directly after having lunch, despite being jet lagged and tired, we went to the Great Wall of China, where nine ‘heroes’ climbed to the highest point of the wall that we could before reaching a dead end. For me this was one of the highlights of the trip, having wanted to see it for as long as I can remember.

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Our experiences of the cuisine were eye opening and very different from the westernised Chinese food as we came to realise at dinner that night, a variety of different dishes being put on our Lazy Susan, a circular maneuvering system that we would all become very accustomed too. The next morning our group waited in line with masks on and cameras ready to get into Tiananmen Square. Once we were in, our tour guide David gave us a comprehensive and informative tour of the area, eventually leading us to the incredible Forbidden City. We would then also be fortunate enough to see the Summer Palace, a kung fu show and the Temple of Heaven before taking a train to Xian.

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Xian gave us all the long awaited experience of seeing the Terracotta Warriors. As well as this the architecture of a beautiful drum tower, a walk along the city’s wall and a remarkable visit to a small muslim street where we were lucky enough to try some local cuisine including sticky rice with rose syrup and persimmon cake. Soon after a short stop in Xian we took a plane to Shanghai. On our first day there we received the warmest of welcomes from Chuansha, our sister school. This included a tour of the beautiful campus and a delightful welcoming ceremony where we exchanged performances, theirs of dances and vocals and ours of Peter playing the guitar. That night we were treated to a delicious meal in a restaurant by Chuansha and its headmaster Mr Chen.

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In Shanghai we had the opportunities to go to the Shanghai museum which was just amazing, the artwork being diverse and fascinating – also definitely a highlight; a communist propaganda poster exhibition from the cultural revolution; the Yu garden and the Shanghai museum of Technology and Science. We also had a few shopping opportunities in the Chinese and French concession areas of the city. On top of this our time in the school was marvellous – being lucky enough to go to a calligraphy lesson, a geography lesson, a paper cutting session and an art lesson. In return we threw a Halloween party, where we played a variety of both English and Chinese games to the background of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller.’ On our last day there, the students were put into pairs and taken with a host on a day out. This was, I am sure, an unforgettable experience for everyone with the ability to be properly immersed in the culture in a personal and emotionally provoking way. Overall the experience was intense, constantly being on the move and trying new things daily but I’m sure everyone that went would agree with me when I describe the trip as being memorable and educational. We are all very grateful to Annabel, Clive and Frances for making this opportunity available to us.

View more photos of the trip here.

By Godelieve De Bree, Block 5


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.