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Free Ai Weiwei and where is our Weiwei?

June 6, 2011

I’d not heard of Ai Weiwei before his Sunflower Seeds show at London Tate.  Thanks to the Chinese authorities’ April 3 arrest and continued detention on convenient if not false allegations Weiwei’s name is everywhere.  He has yet to be charged.

Hari Kunzru wrote a wonderful article about Weiwei with much of it leading to deeper thought such as:

On his return to China in 1993, Ai brought with him a commitment to conceptualism, and a lofty notion of Modernism, which he saw as a kind of total interrogation of the human condition:

“Modernism has no need for various masks or titles; it is the primal creation of the enlightened, it is the ultimate consideration of the meaning of existence and the plight of reality, it is keeping tabs on society and does not cooperate. Enlightenment is attained through a process of self-recognition, attained through a teeming thirst for and pursuit of an inner world, attained through interminable doubts and puzzlement.”

The idea that the “pursuit of an inner world” is a primary artistic activity may seem banal to anyone who grew up with conventional western Romantic notions of art, but Ai has made it the foundation of his challenge to the Chinese state, which he accuses of producing “a society without citizens”. “A person with no true rights cannot have a complete sense of morality or humanity,” he wrote in 2008. “Freedom of expression is one of life’s basic rights . . . Modernity cannot exist without freedom of speech.” Ai’s connection of artistic Modernism to human rights and a kind of relentless questioning of the political, social and psychological status quo is arguably one of the most important developments in Chinese art since it opened up to the West at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Art not of the regime can be dangerous to political regimes, indeed it should be.  Performing arts can convey deep truths that ruling classes would rather keep confused and regulated and beyond desire or pocket to the majority of us plebs.  We keep ourselves busy arguing whether ITV ‘talent’ shows are fixed or not.  It’s not accidental.

More information:  Free Ai Weiwei is an information hub on news and events related to the detention of Chinese artist/architect/social commentator, Ai Weiwei. Follow us @freeaiww and on Facebook.  Edit – also Aiww English (beta) twitter account and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry A Film & Video project in New York, NY by Alison Klayman

Also see:

Art Uncut  Artists and Musicians Against The Cuts (which for the moment hasn’t established itself into any kind of force)

Mark Thomas

What political theatre ought to be – Francis Beckett

Banned & Dangerous Art

Please add anything else relevant in the comments, especially UK related and active.

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