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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid