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Ai Wei Wei

The best art will often take us not further from, but instead, closer to, reality. Chinese artist and activist Ai Wei Wei is a prime example. His artistic statements demonstrate a rare boldness, often pointing to the repressive underside of his society, putting him dangerously at odds with the Chinese communist state. A key element of his remarkable career has been powerful use of the internet.

During his 2010 exhibition of 100 million “Sunflower Seeds” at the Tate Modern museum in London, Wei Wei invited visitors to directly participate with him online. A booth was set up at the site, where participants could shoot and upload a video with their question, and Wei Wei would send his own video response.

When visitors moved close to Weiwei’s installation “Sunflower Seeds,” they noticed that the sea of 100 million seeds were actually replicas made of porcelain, hand-painted in gray. It took 1600 people two and a half years to manufacture them.

“Sunflower Seeds” is layered in meaning. During the famine years in China, the seeds were one of few reliable sources of food and comfort. And significantly, 100 million is a number that equals roughly one quarter of China’s internet users today. The internet may be the key instrument through which the rulers will be forced to distinguish and recognize individuals through the grey masses.

Art has always had the unique ability to speak directly to the public. As illuminated by Google’s decision to leave China, the Chinese government has traditionally succeeded in controlling both art and dissent of its population. But the internet is loosening its iron hold. Wei Wei’s blog had twelve million readers. That is, before Chinese authorities took it down.

His father, Ai Qing, was a renown poet who suffered during the Maoist revolution. Wei Wei himself has endured surveillance and repression, and perhaps key to his survival today is the high profile status he occupies on the international art scene.

See Multimedia Content below to see Wei Wei’s art and what motivates it:


FRONTLINE VIDEO: on Wei Wei’s life, art and struggle

  • CBS VIDEO: The Campaign against Wei Wei



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    Filed under Art  |  Comments: 0 | Posted on Monday, December 12th, 2011

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    Creative action is the fundamental key to innovation in all fields of endeavor. It has opened the common gateway to remarkable cultural achievements since antiquity. Our complex daily lives are bombarded by stories of what is broken. News of what is not working in our society often trumps what is actually making a difference. This Blog is dedicated to creative action that endures through resistance to spawn positive change. We seek to inspire: to create gateways to new visions, aspirations and solutions. Meet the creative agents of global change.

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