Paris, 19 February 2013, Art Media Agency (AMA).
“We see plenty of artistic work that reflects superficial social conditions, but very little work that questions fundamental values.”
Dissident artist Ai Weiwei has been probably the most political artist in contemporary art. Born Chinese, for Weiwei leaving his country is neither an option nor a desire despite its repressive government and the communist and contradictory ideas that go along with it. He might not fear his government anymore, he has been beaten by the authorities and isolated in a cell for 81 days, but his people still do. Ai Weiwei has thus become the voice of the people. He speaks up for them, and without giving up as an artist or a citizen, he uses art not only as an escape, but also as a way to express what he has to say regardless of the consequences.
The book Weiwei-isms, edited by Larry Warsh, is a compilation of quotes that show how simple, yet profound the words of Ai Weiwei are about issues such as life, art and politics. He uses social media, such as as twitter, interviews, and articles to express his thoughts and make an impact on people’s minds around the world. This book took up many of his ideas and organised them into six categories: “On Freedom of Expression”; “On Art and Activism”; “On Government, Power, and Making Moral Choices”; “On The Digital World”; “On History, the Historical Moment, and the Future”; and “Personal Reflections”.
We quote some of them, without any criteria of selection since all of them have an equal strength in the message: “I will never leave China unless I am forced to. Because China is mine. I will not leave something that belongs to me in the hands of people I don’t trust.”
“They detained me for 81 days, but they never killed me. They clearly told me: ‘If we were in the Cultural Revolution, you would have been killed 100 times.’ They said: ‘We have already improved.’ I said: ‘I thank you very much. Yes, you have improved. Not because you are really willing to improve yourself, but only because improvement is a matter of surviving.’ ”
“Not an inch of the land belongs to you, but every inch could easily imprison you.”
Simple, yet profound, political, artistic, strong, direct, sensitive, hurtful, each of his words defines his art while mercilessly judging the politics and government in China that chain him and his people. He considers it intolerable for the government to erroneously give a positive image to the world and repress, forbid, and quiet from behind. It has gotten to the point where if anyone types in Ai Weiwei on a computer, it deletes the entire sentence, which is simply irrational and prohibits free speech. Also, when an artist like him uses art to express himself, his art becomes political because he judges and screams the truth out loud. This is what his words reveal, the truth of his art, his country, what he expects, what he experienced, what he thinks is right, what is not, and what he waits for. He recently acknowledged, according to The New York Times, a real improvement in China, and he expects China to reach democracy by 2020.