Free Ai Weiwei!

BY DEBU BARVE
Apr 05, 2011

World rallies to demand the release of China’s most famous artist, who is held by Beijing amid a wide crackdown on government critics.

“Ai Weiwei still missing after being held by Chinese police. Artist's assistants and wife released but his whereabouts not disclosed by Beijing authorities.” This is the status on April 4 of the acclaimed Chinese artist, thinker and activist Ai Weiwei as reported by The Guardian. Weiwei was detained by the Chinese authorities on Sunday (April 3, 2011) at the airport when he was about to board for Hong Kong.

In case you are not aware of him, his work, his lone fight against the stubborn Chinese authorities, I would strongly recommend this great video on PBS, called “Who's Afraid of Ai Weiwei?”

Ai Weiwei (b.1957), son of highly regarded Chinese poet Ai Qing is not just an art superstar. He is also a thinker, a philosopher and an outspoken activist. The impact of his art and his philosophy has been so intense that the government of the “all well, all rapidly progressing” China has become extremely uncomfortable. The Chinese government is dealing with a highly celebrated, world-renowned artist here. Weiwei was the art adviser for the very popular “Bird’s Nest” stadium China had constructed for the Summer Olympics of 2008. Although Weiwei contributed to this monumental miracle, he refused to participate in the Chinese (Government’s) triumph showcasing a false picture of “all well, all happy” new China. His various installations and sculptures not only display his artistic talent but also deal with the discrepancies he observes and daringly makes statements against them.

 

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Despite house arrests, beatings, detentions and demolition of his studio by the authorities, Weiwei has chosen to remain in mainland China all these years. He is making his art, writing his thoughts, communicating with thousands of young Chinese people through internet and most importantly he is standing firm by his own philosophy. Recently he exposed a corruption racket which was responsible for faulty construction of residential projects and school buildings in Sichuan. In the 2008 earthquake, thousands of school children died as a result of these badly constructed schools. Authorities, outrageously, kept the exact numbers and names of these children undisclosed. Weiwei, with the help of several volunteers researched and uncovered the names of more than 5,000 schoolchildren who had died. Then he went ahead and made a startling installation in the form of a memorial to these unfortunate kids.

 

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He is dealing with the powerful, control freak rulers who have a proven track record of insane censorships, data manipulation and unruly arrests of the intellectuals. In the current times where the world is coming ever so close and newer media for communication and expression are evolving every other day, China is ridiculously choosing to regress back in time.

Today the entire world is concerned about Ai Weiwei’s whereabouts. Not only artists, but any person who recognises the thing called “freedom of expression” would be concerned for Ai Weiwei. I do not know where this is all going to go from here, but all I can say is, “Yes, I too support Ai Weiwei and in the name of art and freedom demand that he, and the others detained now in China be released immediately.”

 

This post was originally published on Debu Barve Art Blog in April 2011.