News / Asia

Artist Ai Weiwei Shares Hopes, Concerns for China

Works by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei are displayed October 2, 2012 at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC.
Works by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei are displayed October 2, 2012 at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC.
William Ide
An exhibit for outspoken Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei opened in Washington this week, but it is unclear whether he will be able to attend the important retrospective of his works.  Authorities in China have stripped him of his passport and he is under close surveilance. 

These days, Ai Weiwei's name seems to be coming up everywhere.  Everywhere that is, except China.

Related story by Mariama Diallo

Chinese Artist-Activist Holds First Retrospective in USi
|| 0:00:00
X
Mariama Diallo
October 17, 2012 1:21 PM
Ai Weiwei is known for his collaboration on the design of China's main stadium - the Bird's Nest - for the 2008 Olympic Games. He's also known for his political activism. Mariama Diallo looks at the massive body of his art being shown for the first time in Washington and the reason why the artist couldn't be present at the exhibit's opening in the U.S. capital.

Overseas, his art and activism are the focus of a documentary about his life Ai Weiwei, Never Sorry, and the first U.S. survey of his work went on display Sunday at the Hirshhorn Museum, in Washington D.C.


In China, it is almost as if he does not exist.

“Even my name cannot be mentioned in China," lamented the artist. "I have such a big tax case and yet there is no mention of the case in any articles, not even a sentence discussing the case.  This is not normal, this is very abnormal, but it seems like such unnatural phenomenon are increasing.

Tax evasion charges

Last year, authorities charged him with tax evasion after detaining him without charges for nearly three months.

Chinese authorities deny Ai's detention was politically motivated, and recently rejected his second and final appeal to the tax evasion charges he and his supporters say are retaliation for his outspoken activism.

“All we can say is that there is a widespread feeling of impotence [in China], a lack of sense of responsibility and a feeling of despair because as a citizen and as an individual when you feel cut off from justice and fairness, and you do not think that you can be of help to others, and you do not think that other people's suffering or happiness has anything to do with you, this is a horrifying society,” Ai said.

A work by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is displayed October 2, 2012 at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC.
A work by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is displayed October 2, 2012 at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC.
Chinese authorities have stripped him of his passport, making it impossible for him to travel to the exhibit in the United States.

“Why they do not give me my passport or why they do not let me go abroad is unclear.  All I know is that they have said that they will definitely give it to me, and it is just a matter of time," Ai said.  "So I hope that in the next few months they will give it to me.”

Daily life

Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei
For now, he can travel around the country, which he says he does at times.  And while visitors to his studio come and go, his minders are always not far behind and close at hand.  The street outside his studio in Beijing is lined with surveillance cameras, one aimed straight at its front door.

Ai is best known for helping to design the main stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Bird's Nest.  But his activism has drawn increasing attention, and at times international concern when he has gotten into trouble with authorities.

Ai became increasingly critical of the Chinese government following the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, when he took up the cause of the thousands of children who were killed when their shoddily built schools collapsed.

Troublemaker

Despite the attention authorities give him, he says there is really nothing special about what he does.

“The police say to me, 'Ai Weiwei, you talk to much, you have got a bad mouth.'  I think that while most people do not ask questions, or they are not willing, or they do not dare or they do not want to ask questions, or even do not think that there is a problem at all, I will speak my mind," he said.  "As an artist or even just someone who cares about society, I think that what I do is very basic.  There is really nothing special about what I do."

Ai says his comments may sometimes be critical of national issues or politics, but they are just his own opinions and really nothing a nation should fear.  If it does, he adds, that is only a sign of the nation's weakness.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Rupali from: muccWCMaZ
October 24, 2012 11:20 AM
I was so confused about what to buy, but this makes it undesrntadable.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid