Many of you reading this will recall the incident of last February in which a gentleman named Maximo Caminero destroyed a very valuable vase by the internationally famous Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei at the Perez Art Museum Miami.
Ai Weiwei and dropped vases were linked well before Caminero committed his act of artistic vandalism, which might in fact be regarded as a form of hommage—indeed, Caminero has said as much. For, nearly two decades earlier, Ai Weiwei did much the same thing in order to elicit a reaction. In his 1995 photographic triptych Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, Ai Weiwei does precisely what the title indicates, getting butterfingers with a 2000-year-old relic. These three massive pictures were hanging just a few feet away from Caminero in the Perez Art Museum Miami, so his claim to be perpetrating hommage seems highly credible.
You might even say that “Ai Weiwei and dropping valuable vases” constitutes one of the most exciting new artistic genres of our era. According to Chin-Chin Yap, in 2012 “Swiss artist Manuel Salvisberg created a photographic triptych called Fragments of History, which depicts Uli Sigg in an almost identical stance to Ai’s in Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn. Here, Sigg drops the famed Coca-Cola Urn [a work by Ai Weiwei] that has long been one of the central pieces of his collection.”
If I’m understanding this game correctly (and if we follow the logic of a certain conceptual-art exchange purportedly performed by Macaulay Culkin and Ryan Gosling last week), the next step in the sequence would be for Ai Weiwei to destroy an invaluable urn created by Manuel Salvisberg, or possibly by Maximo Caminero.
Be that as it may, a video game designer called Grayson Earle has broken this closed loop by creating an online video game called “Ai Wei Whoops!” in which the player repeatedly drops 2D images of Ai Weiwei vases on the ground, which then go smash. After that the tally of “approximate property damage” increases by some number in the neighborhood of a million dollars (it isn’t always the same number).
Here’s the Caminero video, for those who’d like to see the mayhem all over again:
The well-known Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei has just released three gorgeous skateboard decks in association with the Dutch skateboard company The Sk8room. Each of the models is a limited edition of 150, is hand-numbered and signed, and costs 300 Euros (about $400). Proceeds from the sale of the decks will go to Skateistan, a nonprofit NGO that promotes skateboarding and educational activities.
Weiwei paid homage to his own artworks for the decks. One of them uses an image from his installation Sunflower Seeds, which was shown at London’s Tate Modern in 2010, and another borrows from his work He Xie, which featured a group of ceramic crabs and was displayed at Washington D.C.‘s Hirshhorn Museum.
After the jump, some close-up views of the three Ai Weiwei decks….
Hit the FUCK OFF – Bookmarklet in desired situation while you surf the web! Say it like Ai Weiwei! FUCK OFF!! Deutsche Bank, BMW and Siemens for keeping their mouths shut about Ai Weiwei’s arrest. Yes, just keep sponsoring art shows and culture in China and pretend nothing has happend …. FUCK OFF!!!
A petition calling for Ai Weiwei’s release has been started by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Addressed to the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China (Minister Mr. Cai Wu), the statement reads:
On April 3, internationally acclaimed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was detained at the Beijing airport while en route to Hong Kong, and his papers and computers were seized from his studio compound.
We members of the international arts community express our concern for Ai’s freedom and disappointment in China’s reluctance to live up to its promise to nurture creativity and independent thought, the keys to “soft power” and cultural influence.
Our institutions have some of the largest online museum communities in the world. We have launched this online petition to our collective millions of Facebook fans and Twitter followers. By using Ai Weiwei’s favored medium of “social sculpture,” we hope to hasten the release of our visionary friend.
Architect, photographer, curator and blogger, Ai Weiwei is China’s most famous and politically outspoken contemporary artist. As Ai Weiwei’s latest work is unveiled in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, Alan Yentob reveals how this most courageous and determined of artists continues to fight for artistic freedom of expression while living under the restrictive shadows of authoritarian rule.
As one reviewer noted:
If you found yourself thinking that you were watching Mission: Impossible rather than Imagine, you could have been forgiven. Alan Yentob had clearly been banned from meeting Ai Weiwei in China, and so one of their interviews was conducted over a webcam, with Yentob sitting in the dark, like some spymaster of the arts.
This was even before Ai had been put under house arrest to prevent him from attending a party he arranged to celebrate the demolition of his studio in Shanghai (a studio which the Chinese Government had asked him to put up in the first place…). All of which prompts the question: what does that say about the place of the artist in China?
The US and EU have spoken out over the detention of artist and activist Ai Weiwei, in China. Police detained the 53-year-old at Beijing Airpport, on Sunday morning, as he was going through immigration. No one has been able to contact Ai Weiwei since.
It has also been reported that 8 of his studio workers were arrested at the artist’s studio in the north-west Beijing. They were questioned for several hours and then released. According to Art Lyst:
The police visited the studio several times last week in an attempt to intimidate the artist and his supporters.Dozens of police officers also raided the hotel rooms of supporters of Tan Zuore on Wednesday morning in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province. They were there to testify on behalf of Tan Zuore a well-known writer and human-rights advocate on trial, charged with subversion. The group had also been planning an event, in June to commemorate the anniversary of the massacre of civilians by government forces, during the Tiananmen Square protests.
Mark Toner of the US State Department called for the artist’s immediate release, and added, “We obviously continue to be deeply concerned by the trend of forced disappearances, extralegal detentions, arrests and convictions of human rights activists for exercising their internationally recognised human right for freedom of expression.”
Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague said, “I call on the Chinese government to urgently clarify Ai’s situation and wellbeing, and hope he will be released immediately.”
He also said, “The development of independent civil society and application of human rights under the rule of law are essential prerequisites for China’s long-term prosperity and stability.”
The Guardian reports that the EU delegation to China is concerned by the increasing use of arbitrary detention against human rights defenders, lawyers and activists:
Citing Ai’s case, it added: “We call on the Chinese authorities to refrain from using arbitrary detention under any circumstances.”
France and Germany earlier appealed for the artist’s release. “Ai Weiwei being taken away is not surprising to us; we just didn’t think it would happen now. I don’t think he had expected that either ... Let’s hope for the best,” said Pu Zhiqiang, a human rights lawyer.
Pu said he had agreed to represent the artist if anything happened to him, but added that he had not been able to discuss the issue with Ai’s family yet. “The police had not given any kind of notice to the family – we can’t start the procedures. Even if they detain some kind of street thug, they have to give a notice within certain time, but for Ai Weiwei there is no information,” he added.
Ai has repeatedly clashed with authorities over his outspoken criticism. Friends are particularly alarmed by the length of his detention and the scope and co-ordination of the police operation. Officers have removed dozens of items, including documents and computers, from the artist’s studio.
His wife, Lu Qing, told Reuters: “This time it’s extremely serious. They searched his studio and took disks and hard drives and all kinds of stuff, but the police haven’t told us where he is or what they’re after. There’s no information about him.”
Liu Xiaoyuan, a human rights lawyer, told Reuters: “I hope he doesn’t have to face trial or be jailed,” he said. “But sometimes the things you don’t wish to happen could happen.”
Weiwei was due to visit London for an exhibition at the Lisson Gallery next month, a spokesperson for the gallery said: “We are dismayed by developments that again threaten Weiwei’s right to speak freely as an artist and hope that he will be released immediately.”
However, Ai Weiwei is not the only Chinese artist to have been detained, as the Guardian reports:
The Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network said four artists from Beijing were detained on 24 March after a performance art event in the Chinese capital where some pieces touched on the crackdown and the “jasmine revolution”. An anonymous appeal for protests akin to the Middle East uprisings, which was posted on an overseas website, appears to have sparked the campaign against critics.
Artists Huang Xiang, Zhui Hun and Cheng Li were criminally detained for “causing a disturbance” by officers from Songzhuang police station and Guo Gai was also taken away, probably because he had taken pictures during the exhibition, CHRD said.
No one could be reached for comment at the Taihu detention centre, where the four are reportedly held. An employee at Songzhuang police station said: “I don’t know about the situation,” then added: “Actually, it is not convenient to talk about it.”
CHRD, which has been keeping a tally of the number of detentions, says in total about a dozen people have disappeared and 26 criminally detained in the latest sweep, with five released on bail. Another three have been formally arrested and one has been sent to re-education through labour.
Asked about concerns for the whereabouts and safety of those reported missing, the foreign ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, told a regular press briefing last week: “China’s judicial authorities work independently. China, as a country under the rule of law, protects its citizens’ basic rights and freedoms – including freedom of expression – but citizens while exercising their rights have an obligation to abide by the law and should not bring harm to the public interest.”
The artist and digital activist Ai Weiwei is currently under house arrest in his native China, according to the Guardian. Weiwei, who has embarrassed Chinese authorities on several occasions with his campaigns on sensitive issues, says he has been placed under house arrest until Sunday night because he planned to hold a party to mark the demolition of his newly built studio.
Earlier this week Weiwei, best known for his bird’s nest design for China’s Olympic Stadium, and his Sunflower Seeds exhibition, was ordered to demolish his recently completed $1.2m studio in Shanghai, which had been built after a personal invitation from the local mayor two years ago. The studio was to form part of a new cultural area, where Weiwei was to teach architecture. Authorities now claim the studio had been erected without the relevant planning permission and has to be demolished. In response Weiwei said:
“I was very surprised because the whole process was under government supervision and they were very enthusiastic in pushing it,” he said.
“Two years ago quite a high official [from Shanghai] came to my studio to ask me to build a studio in this newly developed cultural district in an agricultural area. I told him I wouldn’t do it because I had no faith in government, but he somehow convinced me, saying he had come to Beijing from Shanghai, and so I said OK.
“Half a dozen artists were invited to build studios there because they wanted a cultural area. I’m the only one singled out to have my studio destroyed.”
Weiwei decided to hold a huge party before demolition work began, today Ai tweeted that national security officers visited him to say he could not leave his Beijing house until midnight on Sunday - the day of the event. As the Guardian reports:
They appear to have been concerned by the size of the party as well as its nature. Thousands of people had said they wanted to attend after Ai issued an open invitation via Twitter. Chinese authorities are always nervous about large unauthorised gatherings.
“They came last night and tried to interview me, saying I should not do it because it was getting too big,” he said.
“I told them: ‘I cannot cancel my party, because it is our only chance before the building is destroyed.’ Then they suggested I said I was under house arrest. I said: ‘This is ridiculous, because I’m not under house arrest and I’m not going to lie to the public.’”
Ai said he suggested they could either let the party go ahead and stop it if there was any wrongdoing, or ask the Shanghai government not to demolish the building – even if it were only a temporary stay of execution. Had they done so, he would have called off the party.
The police returned today and announced he was under house arrest after he reiterated that he would go unless they stopped him by force.
“They said it was an order they had received … They were very polite and very embarrassed,” he added.
“This is the general tragedy of this nation. Everything has to be dealt with by police. It is like you use an axe to do all the housework because this is the only tool you have.”