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A Deranged Artist?|
“In Beijing he helped spearhead new, radical, often conceptually based underground movements.”
“To anyone familiar with China’s hardball official politics, Mr. Ai’s aggressive words sounded suicidally aggressive … His attacks on political authority grew sharper, more persistent, more amplified. The noble Confucian model of the morally grounded intellectual speaking truth to power in a single dramatic confrontation was called on so often as to become, seemingly by intention, an unnoble and relentless insistence. And as a result, whatever immunity from reprisal he might once have enjoyed was soon gone.”
But it went farther than that. Ai’s writings appeared increasingly bitter and wide-ranging. There was no simple ‘political dissidence’ involved, no pleas for fairness or justice, or more freedoms or a greater say in government. His comments were hateful, vicious and contemptuous, claiming China had no hope, no dreams, no future. Even before the Olympics, he was calling China “a broken vehicle” that would soon disintegrate.
Even trying to wear a kind hat, it truly seemed Ai was either stoned or had flipped out, because much of his ranting wasn’t even coherent. He seemed to be lashing out at anything and everything. He claimed that China had made no progress of any kind in the past 30 years, that the country had more poor people today, that everything was worse now, that government leaders were (in some way) stealing all the money from all the citizens in the country.
My other strong recollection was the feeling of hatred that this man must feel toward his country, to have made many of his comments that were astonishingly bitter, while personally slandering some government leaders.
His hate was directed everywhere, with wild generalisations that slandered pretty much everything from the Olympics to prices to pollution to the people. He ranted about “the incompetence of the regime”, the “increasing poverty”, essentially condemning everything about his country.
Another of Ai’s “artistic works” can be seen in a YouTube video that was widely promoted by him in Germany;
You will need someone to translate the Chinese for you, but you won’t be impressed. The title of the video is “F*** You, Motherland”. Hardly the sort of thing we might expect from what the New York Times chose to call “China’s Conscience”.
The world has no shortage of flaky artists, but Ai stirred things up again in 2000 during the Shanghai Bienniale, when he and Feng Boyi co-curated a show called “F*** Off,” a show packed with provocative works, including one installation that included the bodies of two dead babies. That show was closed rather quickly.
Ai apparently believed that his country, and China’s art, were somehow pathetic and illegitimate unless they were ‘Westernised’. He made a bizarre point in saying that all China ever did, in all of its history, was to produce cheap labor. He claimed there was “nothing, absolutely nothing, creative, nothing which shares the ideology of the other parts of the world”.
It was unfortunate that he used his public status in ways that may have caused considerable damage. In a recent interview with the Economist magazine, Ai addressed himself to all the Chinese people born in the 1980s and 1990s: “Prepare your English, and leave this nation. This will be your best choice.”
A rather pathetic endorsement from “China’s Conscience”.