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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid