I’m back writing about Ai Weiwei, which isn’t what I particularly want to be doing, but as he seems to be the only Chinese artist known or cared about by a wider (Western) audience, here we are. This continued, and likely mutually beneficial, publicity for AWW has led to yet another documentary focusing on the trials and tribulations -- well, mostly the trials -- of him as he continues to work as an artist and professional dissident.
We publicized a Kickstarter on April 1 of a 10-minute dystopian sci-fi film set in Beijing by TED Talks director Jason Wishnow that was advertised as "starring" Ai Weiwei. It blew past its $33,000 goal in no time, probably thanks to the attention that Ai Weiwei -- China's most visible artist -- garners around the world. But now the Kickstarter has been removed and the preview for the movie, The Sandstorm, is only available on YouTube. What gives?
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.