1,001 Chinese Make Living Exhibit in Germany

The international summer art season is in full swing, with the Venice Bienale opening last weekend and Art Basel in Switzerland kicking off today.

Saturday, "Documenta 12," another of the world's most important modern art exhibitions, will open its doors in Kassel, Germany.

Founded in 1955, this show that draws collectors from around the world runs every five years. This year it will be up through Sept. 23, drawing an expected 650,000 art enthusiasts to Kassel, a city about 180 miles west of Berlin.

One of the most expensive and, organizers hope, more interesting projects on exhibit is expected to be "Fairytale" — a "living" artwork made up of 1,001 Chinese men and women who have traveled to Kassel as "live exhibits" — by the Chinese artist Ai WeiWei.

The artist attracted his subjects through a post on his blog. Within three days, 3,000 people had applied; 1,001 were picked. Those lucky enough to be chosen — teachers, farmers, students, police officers, engineers and pensioners from all over China — will arrive in Germany in batches of 200 and stay overnight in a converted factory. Ai, who is going to film them here for his documentary, has also promised to cook for them.

In a recent interview, the 49-year-old Chinese artist told German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that he was a "little bit tired of the standard procedure showing those static objects."

In an attempt to expand the boundaries, he chose the concept of "live exhibits" as his entry for this year's exhibition. The 1,001 Chinese citizens participating in the project will mix and mingle among the other artworks at "Documenta 12" fairground area, as well as wander around the city of Kassel.

"Documenta 12" spokesperson Catrin Seefranz told ABCNEWS.com, "Ai WeiWei's compatriots will fly to Germany from all parts of China to create his 'Fairytale' project. These people will be from all levels of Chinese society. They could be bus drivers, farmers or engineers. The Swiss foundation sponsoring the project is paying for the travel costs and the expenses involved. They supported Ai WeiWei's project with over 4 million U.S. dollars."

Once the Chinese living exhibits arrive in Kassel, there will be no set programs or commitments during their stay, but they'll be encouraged to interact with the locals as much as possible. They will be accompanied by translators so that language will not be a barrier as they make their way around the city or analyze other "Documenta 12" works.

When Ai spoke to reporters in Beijing about his project, he told them he was not only focusing on how his fellow citizens would react to the art exhibition, but also on how they would behave in a foreign environment that was completely different from what they were used to.

"Take an 18-year-old girl who is used to growing potatoes in the Chinese northwestern province of Gansu," he told the media. "She knows nothing outside of the province where she lives. To see how she does over there in Kassel should be most interesting, and we'll be able to make a documentary film about this project. The whole process of two cultures meeting is what I find most fascinating."