Sunday, 7 November 2010

Ai Weiwei: Party For The Right To Say "Fuck Off!"

Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist, architectural designer and human rights activist, who is currently under house arrest by the Chinese authorities at his home in Beijing.

He has had a controversial career as an artist and curator. His works, which have been exhibited around the world, include "Sunflower Seeds", which is currently on display in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern in London, and "Fuck Off", an exhibition in 2000 which he co-curated. The title actually translated from Chinese as "Uncooperative approach" but the English language title was considered to better sum up the attitude of the exhibition, to which Weiwei contributed photographs of him giving the finger to landmarks such as the White House and the Forbidden City.

He was also the artistic consultant in the design for the "Birds Nest" National Stadium in Beijing, although he distanced himself from the project in protest against the Olympic Games and human rights abuses in China.

In 2008 he began an investigation into student deaths caused by the Sichuan earthquake of that year, along with Tan Zuoren, arguing that corruption and shoddy construction of schools had a significant part to play in the high death toll from the earthquake amongst students. Subsequent to their investigation Weiwei and Zuoren were arrested and beaten by the police, Weiwei underwent emergency brain surgery when he was found to have a cerebral haemorrhage believed to be caused by the beating he received. The report he published online has since been removed from the internet.

Weiwei's new £1.1 million studio in the suburbs of Shanghai has been scheduled for demolition, ostensibly on the basis of failed planning permission, and he has once again been arrested and placed under house arrest to prevent him from attending a party being held in protest at the forced demolition of his studio.

400 of his friends, however, went ahead with the party in his absence, drinking wine, playing music and eating river crabs. The Chinese name for river crab, "he xie", sounds the same as "harmonise", a political buzzword often used by the authorities as a euphemism for censorship. The artist had not encouraged people to attend out of concern that they may be hurt, but happily the party for the right to eat crabs and take an "Uncooperative Approach", passed without incident.

Art by Ai Weiwei

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