In 2007, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei initiated “Fairytale,” in which 1001 Mainland Chinese People were invited to Kassel, Germany to view and participate in Documenta 12, a respected European visual art exhibition. The tourists were divided into five groups, each group traveling in succession between June 12th and July 9th 2007. The extraordinary event of 1001 Chinese citizens traveling outside of China, many for the first time, enabled Ai Weiwei and the participants to discuss questions concerning identity, memory, love, dreams and the possibility of cultural dialogue.

In 2011, Ai Weiwei, Hong Kong-based curator Melissa Lam, and Aaron Levy of the Philadelphia-based Slought Foundation, began collaborating on a research project revisiting Fairytale. This work involves translating, archiving, and curating documents that the artist collected over the course of the project, predominantly through a global volunteer network. Our primary materials are participant questionnaires, snapshots, and recorded interviews that Ai Weiwei conducted with the participants. Of particular interest to us are the experiences, memories, and understandings of these participants, who we would like to contact, on the fifth anniversary of the project.

The project will encompass the encounters from Documenta 12 and foreground such issues as the potential for artistic freedom and conducting research in relation to local and global conditions. The complexities of this particular project is derived in part from the sensitivity of the subject matter, which is evidenced on this site as redacted text. We are working on the Fairytale Project with the understanding that the process itself will be reflexively acknowledged and incorporated as it develops. This seems necessary in terms of the significance of the work, and is indicative of the conditions of art, artists, and institutions in the contemporary environment.

Visit the fairytaleproject online here


Design: Natasha Jen with Deuk Gyu Lee
Code: Rachel Mersky with DuKode Studio
Slought: Mimi Cheng (2011-2012)
Milap Dixit, Yifei Wu (2012-)
Translation: Mareike Stoll, Kira Simon-Kennedy, and the many translators who have made this project possible!