Ai Weiwei

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Communist Party rule of China has been punctuated by one mass public campaign after another, each designed to commandeer Chinese minds in service of the state.

There was the Great Leap Forward, the industrial reform campaign begun in 1958 that precipitated a devastating famine; the political witch hunts of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, which nearly tore China apart; and many more, some more damaging than others, and each targeting some political, social or economic imperative of the day. Their cumulative effect is one of the Communist Party’s greatest achievements: a near-perfect symbiosis between dictatorial government and subservient population.

The government’s nearly three-year-old zero-Covid campaign may be the worst of all.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chinese President Xi Jinping, front row center, at the closing ceremony for the 19th Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in October 2017. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a major speech in Beijing late last month at a conference on United Front Work. As the state-run news agency Xinhua reported, Xi “stressed promoting the unity and hard work of Chinese people at home and abroad to pool strength for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”. And he described the “united front” effort, the agency said, as one that would “truly unite all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation from different political parties, ethnic groups, social strata and groups, as well as those with different beliefs and living in different social systems”.…  Seguir leyendo »

La pregunta que nos hace humanos

Muchos de los problemas en el mundo actual, si uno se detiene a pensar en ellos, exigen contestar una pregunta antigua: ¿qué es ser humano?

Me parece que no hay una respuesta inmutable. Nosotros, los humanos, somos lo que concebimos que somos, y con ello me refiero a dos cosas: lo que queremos ser y lo que decimos que somos. Nuestras autoconcepciones son, a su vez, respuestas a condiciones que encontramos en nuestros entornos y esas condiciones cambian todo el tiempo dependiendo del tiempo y el lugar. La única forma de contestar esta pregunta es analizar cómo se ve una persona a sí misma y a los demás en el contexto de las condiciones sociales, culturales, económicas y políticas de su época.…  Seguir leyendo »

A lo largo de un mes en 2014, en distintas exposiciones en Pekín y Shanghái que incluyeron mi obra, mi nombre fue tachado, en una ocasión por los funcionarios gubernamentales y en la otra por los galeristas. Algunas personas se lo podrían tomar con filosofía, como una cuestión por la que no hay que ofenderse.

Sin embargo, como artista, considero que las fichas técnicas al lado de mi obra son una medida del valor que he producido, como los medidores del nivel de agua en los márgenes de un río. Otras personas tal vez solo se encogen de hombros, pero yo no puedo.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the space of a month in 2014, at separate art exhibitions in Beijing and Shanghai that included my work, my name was blotted out — in one case by government officials and by exhibitors themselves in the other case. Some people might take such treatment in stride, as nothing to get huffy about. But as an artist, I view the labels on my work as a measure of the value I have produced — like water-level markers at a riverbank. Other people might just shrug, but I can’t. I have no illusions, though, that my unwillingness to shrug affects anyone else’s willingness to do so.…  Seguir leyendo »

On September 22, Chinese lawyer Xia Lin was found guilty of almost 10 million yuan in fraud, deprived of his political rights, fined 120,000 yuan and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Xia Lin and I met in 2010.

I planned to sue the Public Security Bureau in Sichuan for exercising violence; Xia accepted my offer to hire him as a lawyer and went with me to Sichuan. Despite our efforts, we were unable to file a lawsuit in the Sichuanese courts. The Public Security Bureau, the Sichuan People's Procuratorate, and the provincial courts all denied any physical abuse took place.…  Seguir leyendo »

Courage on Trial in China

In April 2011, I was kidnapped by the Chinese undercover police at a Beijing airport and detained at a secret location for 81 days. After my release, the government charged me with tax evasion, even though most of the questions during my confinement centered on my political activities. They demanded that I pay back taxes and a fine totaling $2.4 million, and when I asked why the shakedown, one official replied, “If we don’t penalize you, you won’t give us any peace.”

I decided not to give them peace. I contacted Pu Zhiqiang, one of the few courageous lawyers willing to defend political activists who suffer abuse at the hands of China’s authoritarian regime, to file an appeal.…  Seguir leyendo »

These protesters and soldiers were all witnesses. Photographer: Peter Charlesworth/LightRocket via Getty Images

In the last month, in two separate cities, I was involved in events related to the rewriting of the history of Chinese contemporary art. In Shanghai, two of my works, “Stool” and “Sunflower Seeds,” were included in an exhibition commemorating the 15th year of the Chinese Contemporary Art Award. A half-hour before the show opened, local officials had my name erased from the exhibition’s wall text and barred the artworks from being displayed. A few weeks later in Beijing, under similar pressure, the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art excised my name from publicity information about an upcoming show honoring my late friend Hans van Dijk, with whom I had founded one of the first experimental art spaces in China.…  Seguir leyendo »

The just-concluded trial of Bo Xilai will be remembered as one of the most critical political milestones in contemporary Chinese Communist history. For many years after Chairman Mao’s death in 1976, show trials were straightforward affairs. For their role in the devastating Cultural Revolution, the Gang of Four were simply charged with “anti-party activities” and convicted. Today, a political trial needs to take into consideration many more factors.

As China assumes a more central role in international affairs and touts its rapid economic growth over the past 30 years, its leaders seek to establish a reputation for governing society according to the rule of law.…  Seguir leyendo »

In May 2008, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck China . At its epicenter in Wenchuan, Sichuan province, thousands of children lost their lives . Many died at schools that collapsed into rubble; they were built to subpar standards so that developers and local officials could skim money off the top, effectively profiting off the students’ lack of safety. When I visited Wen­chuan soon after the quake, hundreds of children’s backpacks were strewn across the ground.

When I saw those backpacks, I wanted to know to whom they belonged. But Chinese authorities used the natural disaster to avoid addressing campus construction issues, evading proper explanation about the students’ deaths.…  Seguir leyendo »

A year ago tomorrow, I was released from more than two months of secret detention. Police told me today that they have lifted my bail conditions. I am happy that the year is up, but also feel sorry about it. I have no sense of why I lost my freedom and if you don't know how you lost something, how can you protect it?

"Wei" means "future" and also "uncertainty", and the future really is unknown. They have said I cannot leave China because they are still investigating cases against me – for pornography, exchanging foreign currency and bigamy. It is very, very strange.…  Seguir leyendo »

Do the lives of Gandhi, Solzhenitsyn and Mandela tell us more about the future than those of Stalin, Hitler and Mao? Several prominent world-watchers tell us what they think.

Ai Weiwei, Chinese artist and activist.

Throughout history, political and social change only existed in the forms we knew because protest actions, be they violent or peaceful, were carried out with a lack of resources, especially in terms of communications. Individuals could mobilize and share information with others only to a limited extent. Such circumstances posed obstacles to protest actions that people can take and hindered the impact of their efforts.…  Seguir leyendo »