Monday, April 11, 2011


Ai WeiWei 1980's, New York 
"What could they do to me? Nothing more than banish, kidnap, or imprison me--perhaps they could fabricate my disappearance into thin air--but they don't have any creativity or imagination, and they lack both joy and the ability to fly."  These were some of last words seen on Chinese artist, Ai WeiWei's blog that has been shut down by the Chinese government.  

53 year old, well known political activist, Ai WeiWei has been detained a week ago yesterday by the authorities in China.  The artist who attempted to get on a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong, was arrested and hasn't been seen since, nor are Chinese officials revealing his whereabouts--not even to his family.  
Mr. Ai's artistic CV background is nothing short of impressive.  During the 80's and into the mid-90's, the artist had lived in New York to study art (photo featured left), and rolled with other artistic influentials such as Andy Warhol, Alen Ginsberg, and Marcel Duchamp.  

Like Duchamp, Ai WeiWei's artistic expression is in the form of dadaism: making ordinary objects into the unexpected. The Chinese artist/designer/architect has received critical acclaim for his recent work at the Tate Modern for his large-scale-installation called Sunflower Seeds (October 2011, see featured video right).  

The sea of 100 million ceramic identical replicas of sunflower seeds were scattered on the ground floor of the museum for visitors to walk on and interact with--it is a commentary on the culture of mass production in China.  It took 1,600 Chinese artisans from a town called, Jingdezhe--and two years to complete the Sunflower Seeds project for Tate.

Despite zero formal architectural training, Mr. Ai has also become one of the most prominent architects in China.  His most famous designs being the Birds Nest, more formally known as the Beijing National Stadium (pictured below).  This massive project, which was erected to house and feature the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing--(ironically to represent the "modernized" country), was made in collaboration with Swiss architect firm Herzog & de Meuron.

Beijing National Stadium, China.
Ai WeiWei Installation in Tokyo,  Japan.

Ai WeiWei Installation in Tokyo,  Japan.
The sudden arrest of the notable artist by Chinese officials last week, did not come without signs:  Mr. Ai had been brutally beaten by the police back in 2009--for addressing the 2008 earthquake controversies--implicating his government's handlings as corrupt (for hiding information of the number of dead); and the disregard for the school children who died in what Mr. Ai claims had been  poorly built  schools to begin with.  

Ai WeiWei has also overtly expressed scorn for other governments aside China's--captured in his series of recent photos,  he's seen giving the finger to symbolic sites of that particular country in the background.  

His Shanghai studio was also completely demolished by Chinese authorities just this passed January--ironically, deemed by the government as having failed to follow proper building permits.  Reasons given for his arrest is plagiarism: He is accused of copying the work of artist's Yue Luqing (which Luqing has publicly repudiated)--as well as tax evasion.  

Since his disappearance on April 2nd, the global art community has rallied behind the significant artist: Last week, Museums such as the MoMA, the Guggenheim, Tate, LACMA, have all began to make their appeals, as well as protesters who are starting to demonstrate this week in London and Hong Kong for China to release Mr. Ai--but to no avail.

Three months prior to his disappearance this passed February, Ai WeiWei spoke at a TED conference (via video projection as he was already on house arrest, featured below) to address the dire situation he felt China was under: "I'm living in a society where freedom of speech is not allowed--where it's very hard to practice public expression... To help China become a democracy, [we need to show young people that they can give their opinion, encouraging them to be involved.  This is the only way we can have a civil society]."

Ai WeiWei's Video for TED 

If you're interested in signing the petition for Ai WeiWei's release, go HERE

Update: Ai WeiWei has been released on bail on June 22, 2011.  More info via BBC HERE.

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