Ai Wai Wai Exhibition at Royal Academy, London
october 2015 london
Ai Weiwei the most quotable artist on earth? It makes sense. The world’s most famous artist dissident, Ai has founded his expansive career on speaking out – against the oppression experienced by his father, a poet exiled by the Chinese Communist government for 20 years, and against the censorship that the artist’s generation still faces.
Seeing all aspects of life and politics as inseparable from his art, Ai’s activism is done with poignant, poetic precision – the names of over 5000 children who died in Sichuan’s 2008 earthquake, for example, exhibited quietly next to 90 tonnes of steel bars collected from their collapsed schools (Straight, 2008-2012). Bold acts like that have seen Ai Weiwei beaten and detained, but he remains firm. “I have a responsibility to let other people know… if I have to sacrifice I would have no regrets,” he told us recently.
Combine that promise never to be silenced and gift for self-expression with a love of social media and its intrinsic democracy, and what do you get? Weiwei-isms, and lots of them. From his many newspaper interviews, videos, blogs and tweets, here are a selection to give an insight into the mind of this great artist, and to inspire your own art, ideas and activism.