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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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
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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid