Visual artist and activist Ai Weiwei and Pritzker Prize-winning architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron collaborate on a new site-specific commission that leverages both the vast scale of the Park Avenue Armory's drill hall and its history as a public meeting space. Exploring the meaning of public space in our surveillance-laden world, the installation references the story of Hansel and Gretel, in which children lose their way and feel a sense of menace in a space they know and trust. The artists take advantage of the architecture of the drill hall — its openness and 80-foot height — to create a disconcerting environment with an unexpected entrance wherein every movement is tracked and surveyed by drones and communicated to an unknown public. Accompanying this installation will be talks and programs by artists, philosophers, and activists.
Hansel & Gretel builds on a legacy of over 15 years of collaboration among Weiwei, Herzog, and de Meuron, who have worked together on such design projects as the 2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion and the National Stadium in Beijing, created for the 2008 Summer Olympics and nicknamed the "Bird's Nest" for its façade of interwoven steel.