I chose to include the Snake head because I am the year of the snake- in fact, this is my half-birthday. But, a bit more about the exhibition, courtesy of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, (where the exhibit was on view when I took the photograph):
The Zodiac Project is Ai Weiwei’s (艾未未) first major public sculpture. For this monumental new work, Ai has recreated the famous twelve bronze animal heads that once adorned the Zodiac Fountain in Yuan Ming Yuan, the Old Summer Palace, in Beijing. Cast around 1750, the original heads were looted by Anglo-French troops who took part in the destruction of Yuan Ming Yuan in 1860 during the Second Opium War. The heads remain a potent trigger for Chinese nationalist sentiments. Ai’s new work suggests a dialogue about the fate of art objects that exist within dynamic and sometimes volatile cultural and political settings. With his subversive wit, the artist adapts objects from the Chinese material canon going back to antiquity, twisting traditional meanings toward new purposes. Ai’s continuous exploration of the historical object finds great resonance with the encyclopedic collection of LACMA, which includes Chinese art from the Neolithic to the Qing Dynasty period.
Ai Weiwei grew up the son of acclaimed poet Ai Qing and spent several years as a child exiled in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. For more than a decade, he lived and worked in New York, returning to China in 1993. He was detained in April, 2011 for close to three months, causing an international outcry. He is currently prohibited from leaving Beijing. He has become an international symbol of the ongoing struggle for freedom of expression and dissent.