The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is still in detention in his home in Beijing, but even so, he finds several ways to communicate with the world. And he has a number of shows going on in the West at all times, even if he himself is unable to leave his home.
@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz
September 27, 2014 – April 26, 2015 at Alcatraz Island
If you are at all interested in the art of Ai Weiwei, I will recommend a visit to the Brooklyn Museum’s webpage. This summer the museum hosted an exhibition called; Ai Weiwei: According to What? During the exhibition the public were given a possibility to ask Ai questions via the web. The answers can be found online.
One of the questions Ai gets is: “What do you miss most about NYC? Or what DON’T you miss?”
His reply is worth considering:
I have much less to act upon in NY. It seems NY doesn’t really need me. … When I come back to China I feel my life serves some purpose. And I have so much to do. Also, I can feel there is a need for me to act.
You find the full reply here:
None of us shares Ai’s experience of deprivation of liberty, it is a cruel and inhuman restriction! But some of us might recognize his feeling of not being needed, of not having anything to contribute, or a feeling of meaninglessness about our own work – how is it that we, in more liberal societies, come to feel this paralyzing hopelessness?
2 Comments Add yours
Sigrun, it is a good question to pose: “some of us might recognize his feeling of not being needed, of not having anything to contribute, or a feeling of meaninglessness about our own work – how is it that we, in more liberal societies, come to feel this paralyzing hopelessness?”
But I think that part of the problem–if it is a problem–is that art needs, or seems to need, something to push against; in a fairly materialistic society, we find art going to extremes of minimalism or maximal chaos. In an oppressive society, art goes underground to dissent overtly in the hidden zones and on the black market, or else appears in disguises, sometimes so subtle that the powers that be hardly recognize it. In between…well, the suburban, first-world “problems” may be dissented against in all kinds of ways, but it isn’t easy to forge those paths because there already is freedom of speech or expression.
it may also depend upon each individual artist’s motivating urges. Ai Weiwei perhaps ‘needs’ the oppression to power his artistic motivation?
Your comment made me think; maybe it is an extremely important task for well-functioning democracies is to keep art alive as a strong and alternative voice. It might not be obvious why we need it here & now, but in times of deprivation – art might be the only sustainable language – ?