Ai Weiwei is an extraordinary man, architect, artist and activist. He is a true cultural provocateur, who works with passion, determination and conviction. His controversial status stems in part from wanting to tell the truth about the political regimen in China and the lack of freedom and democracy that their citizens experience on a daily basis. Having had a very prolific career that spans more than 20 years, the Brooklyn Museum chose to honor and celebrate Weiwei’s career in 2014. First, he is an honoree of the Brooklyn Artists’ Ball and second, and most importantly, he is having a retrospective at the museum that opens on April 18th. The show is called “According To What?” and it is centered on the issues of freedom of speech, self-expression and other basic human rights (or lack thereof) in China and around the world.
Unfortunately, Weiwei’s passport has been unlawfully and arbitrarily retained by the Chinese authorities and because of that he is unable to travel. That is not a reason to stop him, though. Ai has used the power of social media, including Twitter and Instagram, to keep expressing himself. He has filmed documentaries that are banned in China but seen all over the world, he is putting together massive shows in museums internationally without having to be present. At any given time, his work can be seen at a booth in Art Basel or in a gallery in Berlin. That is the power of art and the reach of Ai Weiwei – which extends beyond any autocratic regime and its desire to control and suppress people’s most fundamental needs: the right to be themselves.
The interview was filmed and recorded last night in New York City which was morning time in Beijing and although the audio and image are not the best because of technology and communication issues in China, I still think that Weiwei’s message is loud and clear: nobody can stop him or his art.