Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sign Petition to Release Ai Weiwei

Members of the international arts community are petitioning the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China to release artist, Ai Weiwei. You can sign the petition, started by the Guggenheim Foundation, here. 

Link to: Petition for the Release of Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei, host of the petition, has been under cyber attack from China in an effort to shut down the site and stop the petition. engineers are working around the clock to keep the site up.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Protests for Ai Weiwei

 "What can they do to me? 
Nothing more than to banish, kidnap, to 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."

Ai Weiwei's last blog entry before his April 3 detention.

 Photo: Elisa Haberer

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has still not been seen by his friends and family. Officials claim that he is under investigation for "economic crimes" but the police have still not informed his family regarding his detention from the Beijing airport two weeks ago. Colleagues of Ai also remain missing.

 Artists and activists protest the detention of Ai Weiwei in Hong Kong.
Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters The Guardian

According to the British newspaper The Guardian a Canadian curator organized artists around the world to protest Ai Weiwei's detention by taking chairs into the streets and sitting in silent protest. This idea stemmed from the 2007 installation, Fairytale, of Ai Weiwei's where he took 1,001 Qing Dynasty wooden chairs and 1,001 Chinese citizens to Germany. The German curator of that show, Roger Brugel, sat in protest outside of the Chinese Embassy in Berlin. Said Brugel, "It's crucial to exert pressure now, before they come up with a verdict."

Fairytale, Installation, Ai Weiwei 2007
Censored in China, Ai Weiwei's Blog: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, has just been made available through MIT Press.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Free Ai Weiwei!

 Chinese artist Ai Weiwei

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is still missing following his detainment Sunday morning at the Beijing airport (see previous post). According to Aljazeera Amnesty International, The United States, Britain and Germany have called for his release. You can sign a "twitition" (online petition) here: Free Ai Weiwei.

Meanwhile please take a few moments to appreciate the art of Ai Weiwei. Currently, exhibiting at the Tate Modern in London is Ai Weiwei's The Unilever Series: Ai Weiwei Sunflower Seeds featuring 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds. Or watch the Ai Weiwei slideshow currently up on

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds 2010
Photocredit: BBC

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Detained.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was detained Sunday at the Beijing airport and is still missing. Even his outstanding international reputation, he has a sculpture exhibition scheduled in Manhattan next month, was not enough to stop the Chinese from arresting him.

Ai Weiwei in his Bejing Studio March 7, 2011
Photograph by Andrew Jacobs, published April 3, 2011, New York Times

Human rights advocates believe that Weiwei's arrest is part of the Chinese government's latest crackdown on human rights with arrests of lawyers, bloggers and dissidents. Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch describes this as China's "attempt to redefine the limits of what kind of criticism is tolerable." Apparently Ai Weiwei's freedom of expression is intolerable to Chinese authorities and this is far from his first brush with the law.

Weiwei was raised in a labor camp in China's cold western deserts when his father, the poet Ai Qing, was exiled for being the "wrong kind" of intellectual. In 2009 Weiwei was seriously beaten by police the night before he was scheduled to testify on behalf of a fellow dissident. Larry Warsh, the founder of AW Asia, the contemporary Chinese art organization instrumental in organizing Weiwei's show next month in New York, said after the current arrest, "Weiwei is among the greatest living artists and thinkers, and a globally respected champion of human rights." which seems to be just what is getting him into so much trouble.

Ai Weiwei on TED Talks

Criticism is one of the primary roles of an artist in society but living in a police state makes this critique a particular challenge. Considering Ai Weiwei's success he could keep quiet and easily live in comfort like China's burgeoning nouveaux-riche class and yet he says, "as a human being, member of society, you must clearly state your mind. It's a responsibility … it is the way you identify yourself otherwise you don't know who you are and why you are here. I don't have a choice, it's the way I live."

Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo, Ai Weiwei, 1994

source: New York TimesThe Age, TED Talks