POLITICAL ART: Skype > Government

MIA MARTIN WRITES – ArtReview’s “Most Powerful Artist in the World,” Ai Weiwei was at one point hand-selected by the Chinese government to design the Beijing Olympics Bird’s Nest Stadium. Now, Weiwei has been thrown in jail by his own government and currently has his passport confiscated.

The Chinese government has made numerous attempts to make it harder for his art to reach the public, but Weiwei has voiced criticism that questions top Chinese officials. One of his current art displays is at Alcatraz, and encourages visitors to write letters to Chinese prisoners. According to artnet news, “Since opening in September 2014, over 50,000 messages have been sent to prisoners around the world.” In addition to China, “12% of letters have been addressed to recipients in the US; 8.7% have been delivered to India; and 8.1% to Vietnam.”

Another piece of new modern art created by Weiwei is a structure called Iron Tree, which has been placed at Meijer Garden. “Held together by oversized, stainless steel bolts, the work appears from a distance to be a living tree. But upon closer examination, the diversity of shapes, exaggeration of reality, and awkwardness of the bolts cast the work in an entirely different light.” This poses the question of how China and the rest of Asia can be unified when they are so distinctly different.

Most recently, Weiwei has created a piece of art unlike anything done before: he is directing his first film via Skype called I Love Berlin. Written by his wife, the film appears to be a bit like art imitating life. Played by Weiwei’s real life son, Ai Lou, it’s about a boy adapting to life in a new city, Berlin. The plot involves his reliance on technology to keep in touch with his father who cannot be with him because he is imprisoned. The film is not only a human rights message, but the fact that Weiwei is using technology to override political restrictions placed upon him in China can be viewed as a protest in itself. In a recent interview with AerNetNews, Weiwei seems fearless of the negative consequences that may result from his defiance, and cares more that the idea of freedom will be brought to the attention of others. He concluded, “Humans design all technology. Those designs come from our desire for greater freedom. Without that desire, there is nothing in the world.”

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