Ai Weiwei on the project that awoke his political voice – The Start podcast

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In 2008, an earthquake devastated Sichuan province in China, claiming the lives of more than 69,000 people. Following accusations from parents that substandard construction caused the collapse of schools across in the region, the artist Ai Weiwei set upon a political investigation that would name every missing student and call the government to account for their deaths.

In the fourth episode of The Start, we hear how this investigation brought about Remembering, an installation of 9,000 school backpacks on the Munich Haus der Kunst, that both commemorated pupils and engendered a new sense of political duty within Ai Weiwei’s work.

Damien Hirst on the break-in that changed his art – The Start podcast

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In 1985, a young artist in a London squat set to work on a portfolio that would secure him a place at art college. Despite initially struggling to find a medium that suited his artistic expression, Damien Hirst soon found inspiration from an unlikely source, his neighbour, Mr Barnes.

We hear how a man whom Damien never met put into motion the artist’s first forays into sculpture, transformed his view on conceptual art and, ultimately, changed the way he makes it – even to this day.