The Chinese artist-activist Ai Weiwei is nothing if not connected. All through the introductory remarks at the press preview for Hansel & Gretel, the giant art installation about electronic surveillance at the Park Avenue Armory in New York (open through August 6), Ai was busy on his phone. When cocurator Tom Eccles turned from the project’s other two collaborators, the Pritzker Prize–winning architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, giving Ai the cue to speak, the artist looked up and without missing a beat chimed in with the wittiest and possibly most substantive remark of the preview. As Herzog and de Meuron had been bandying the success rate of the exhibition’s digital facial-recognition technology about—the estimates rising from 40 to 50, then 60 percent—Ai wryly added that the Chinese government’s accuracy rate is 150 percent.
Hansel & Gretel—the latest in the Armory’s series of huge Drill Hall extravaganzas, whose title indicates that we all leave breadcrumb trails, whether we want to or not—is another collaboration among Mr. Ai and Mssrs. Herzog and de Meuron. They’ve worked together on and off for 15 years on such projects as the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and, in 2012, the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens in London. Herzog & de Meuron, moreover, is the architectural firm in charge of the ongoing $210 million renovation of the 19th-century Park Avenue Armory building itself.