Medium: Steel Reinforcing Bars
On May 12, 2008, Sichuan province suffered a devastating earthquake with thousands of deaths and many more injured and displaced. School buildings constructed from substandard materials, by corrupt government officials and contractors, collapsed, causing thousands of children to lose their lives. The buildings were described as tofu-dregs buildings because of the ease in which they structurally collapsed. Ai Weiwei and a team of volunteers traveled extensively throughout the areas of devastation, researching and documenting all the student deaths. In the aftermath of the quake, the collapsed school buildings were cleared out, the twisted steel rebar pulled out and sent to scrapyards. Ai acquired many tons of the twisted rebar, sending the material to his studio in Beijing where craftsmen meticulously straightened each piece of rebar.