PEN America organized a protest called "Take a Stand for Free Expression in China: An Evening of Literary Protest" last Thursday, April 10, in front of the Brooklyn Public Library in New York. Ai Weiwei was more or less the face of the event, attended by several hundreds of people / bored Brooklynites, which was also had the purpose of raising awareness of persecuted Chinese writers. Art Daily reports that Ai Weiwei appeared via video message to thank his supporters.
Say what you want about his art and activism, but Ai Weiwei isn't boring, and certainly not afraid of trying new things. In his latest venture, he makes his acting debut as the star of a sci-fi short film called The Sand Storm, shot this past winter in Beijing during particularly smoggy days. Yes, the story is dystopic.
The definition of irony has always been difficult to pin down, even for the most seasoned of wordsmiths, but here’s an attempt through example: an artist who achieved fame by defacing or destroying other artists’ work sees one of his defaced works defaced by another artist.
The famous artist is Ai Weiwei, whose 1995 photographic triptych Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn is undoubtedly one of the pieces that propelled him to international art world fame and fortune.
Ai Weiwei has managed to upset and alienate many groups during his reign as China’s national gadfly, particularly within the past five years, a period in which the 55-year-old's public profile has swelled to supernova proportions. A respondent brought up the "Ai Weiwei Effect" in last month’s roundup of critical reactions to Ai Weiwei and Zuoxiao Zuzhou’s song “Dumbass,” and on the eve of the release of The Divine Comedy -- the six-song album on which Dumbass appears -- it's worth asking again: how do we perform aesthetic analysis of the outspoken artist-cum-activist's work when our perceptions are so colored by sentiment?
Ai Weiwei Studios has just released the music video to a second single, Laoma Tihua, which you can watch above. It's off Ai's forthcoming album, The Divine Comedy (music by Zuoxiao Zuzhou), which will be released on Saturday morning.
Here's Ai Weiwei writing in the Guardian on Tuesday:
Intrusions can completely ruin a person's life, and I don't think that could happen in western nations.
But still, if we talk about abusive interference in individuals' rights, Prism does the same.
By now, you’re probably familiar with Ai Weiwei’s “Dumbass," the Beijing-born artist-cum-activist’s widely-publicized collaborative heavy metal music video with Zuoxiao Zuzhou that was unveiled last week to promote the pair’s upcoming full-length effort, The Divine Comedy.
Directed by well-known Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle -- you may recognize his work with Zhang Yimou and Wong Kar-Wai -- the highly-polished video offers a surrealistic interpretation of the 81 days that Ai, 55, reportedly spent in detention in mid-2011 for tax evasion
You've heard by now, but Ai Weiwei did something yesterday. And while most reactions to Dumbass, his foul-mouthed song about his 81 days in prison, were predictably enthusiastic, there's a segment of commentators who believe Ai Weiwei is overexposed, and have reacted with what amounts to a protracted and very loud sigh.
Ai Weiwei's 81 days in detention in 2011 is the inspiration for his latest work, "Dumbass," a song he wrote with music by rocker/artist Zuoxiao Zuzhou. The accompanying video was released minutes ago, in which he recreates scenes from his imprisonment. "He also portrays fantasies he imagines flitting through the guards’ minds," reports the NY Times. The cinematography is by Christopher Doyle, who has worked with the likes of Wong Kar-wai.
On top of everything else, Ai Weiwei is a barber. A good one?
Hm. Maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's start here: exactly what kind of haircuts does he give?
“The kind that will make you want to cry," he said.
“Just don’t make it boring,” I told him.
“It won’t be boring.”
We were sitting on outdoor benches on Wednesday evening at the restaurant Fodder Factory in Caochangdi, a tiny urban enclave whose intimacy and absence of pretension has attracted some of the city's more self-motivated and independent artists, filmmakers and celebrities, Ai Weiwei included...
The outspoken agitator you know as Ai Weiwei -- who, last we checked, is still not allowed to leave the country -- might be weary and beat down (or just mugging for the camera), judging by these pictures by Jamie Hawkesworth, who recently visited the artist in his Beijing studio, commissioned by the magazine AnOther.
As Rob Alderson writes on It's Nice That:
Since accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature on December 10, the controversial Mo Yan has turned down every formal interview request from every publication in the world. But he finally broke his silence last week, granting a sit-down with Germany’s Der Spiegel, one of Europe’s largest news weeklies. The article was published in this week’s (February 25)... Read more »
On Tuesday night, the Global Times published an article damning Elton John for dedicating his performance to Ai Weiwei and encouraging Chinese people to boo future similar performers off the stage. On the same day, GT published “‘Top thinkers’ list a reflection of US values,” a scathing indictment of Foreign Policy’s list, which features, among others, Ai Weiwei.
There’s no question Bo Xilai has had an eventful year, directly responsible for outrage, consternation, confusion, exhilaration, and joy (he was manna from heaven for China’s foreign correspondents). As Time’s Austin Ramzy writes, “Bo was favored to win a seat on China’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee this fall after having boosted his popularity by reviving Mao-era... Read more »
This picture (and the ones after the jump) is via Gonzalo the 3rd (update: originally posted to Ai Weiwei’s Instagram), and appears to have been taken today. Tipster Mark D writes in: Elton John dedicated this evening’s show to Ai Weiwei. Not exactly on the Bjork-Free Tibet scale of scandal, but still interesting nonetheless. The Bjork... Read more »
We have officially just seen what happens when a 120-year-old man time travels from the 1910s to the 2010s and is told to “put that Ai Weiwei Gangnam video on the Internet.” His head doesn’t explode, but we wish it did. Look at the above. Just look at it as you would a Millie Brown... Read more »
If there's anyone in China who might understand what it means to parody something -- actually, truly parody, and not just copy or co-opt -- it's Ai Weiwei. He's an artist, you know. Who better than he to skewer China's nouveau riche and be this country's answer to PSY? You think Gangnam, South Korea is a district of gross decadence and put-on fakery?
Ai Weiwei + Instagram + Gangnam Style = This Inevitability. No context necessary. We never would have pictured him doing PSY’s famous dance with friends in any other way. This deserves to be turned into a caption contest. Picture by XuYe1226, via @aiww.
On Tuesday, while most protesters were gathering around the Japanese embassy, about 50 people splintered off toward the US embassy, where they happened to catch Ambassador Gary Locke in his official black embassy car. Police very quickly came streaming in from two directions and walked the car down the street, where it took the next left and disappeared. The vehicle sustained minor damages. All else was peaceful.