Author: expatter

Rogues Gallery: Ai Weiwei ...........   [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2011-11-11 08:09:21 |Display all floors

Bears Repeating... Part 2

Into the Cultural Elite

A premature dead-end is certainly no reflection of his own career. His family was pardoned with the economic reforms at the start of the Deng Xiaoping era. After being branded a reactionary bourgeois poet, his father Ai Qing saw his reputation restored in 1979 as the lyrical voice of Mao's Yanan-based resistance to Japanese military occupation and a democratic intellectual who had selflessly supported workers' uprisings against the dictatorial Nationalist Party in the 1930s. His rejection of the family name "Jiang" or Chiang, in disgust at the brutal tyranny of Kuomingtang chief Chiang Kai-shek, was again hailed as an exemplary act of moral integrity.

Just a year before his father's release, from exile Ai Weiwei was enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy, alongside illustrious classmates Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou, who soon became China's leading filmmakers. Quickly he, too, was welcomed into the nation's cultural elite, as a younger member of the avant garde movement known as "The Stars."

His alienated generation felt burning anger toward the anti-intellectualism of the Cultural Revolution. Before long, however, many including Zhang Yimou came to terms with the governing populist ideology and joined the upper echelons of the arts establishment. As China's "commanding" film director, Zhang took the political position of accepting the historical necessity of national unity, as depicted in his film "Hero" with the would-be assassin's ultimate decision not to execute the emperor.

Ai Weiwei, in contrast, rejected what he saw as the shallow and self-serving mantle of "national representative artist", denouncing Zhang Yimou (and Stephen Spielberg) for producing the mass-exercise performance at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. His reaction was one of "disgust" at "anyone who shamelessly abuses their profession, who makes no moral judgment." Consistent with his iconoclasm, Ai repudiated his own participation in the architectural design team for the Bird's Nest Stadium. The son, like his father, demonstrated extraordinary courage and stubbornness - though under far different circumstances.

Before heaping praise on Ai Weiwei as a champion of freedom and democracy, Western artists should ask themselves if they have ever taken the same stance against their own involvement with corporate or government sponsors. Has any one of them refused all funding from grants, exhibitions and seminars? If any such uncompromising artists do exist in the West, they can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand.

The Clubbing Incident

His reputation would have been enshrined forever had Ai Weiwei remained a lone artist in the footsteps of a Vincent Van Gogh or a solitary dissident like novelist Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. His self-righteous refusal of emoluments, however, did not extend to foreign governments. He gladly received cash awards, including the overtly political Prism of Reason from the city of Kassel, Germany, and another from the political science faculty of the University of Ghent, Belgium.

An inconsistent stance toward state sponsorship at home and abroad undermines his existentialist principles. As with his friend and ally Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel laureate for literature, his sensational acts of dissent appear to be aimed at currying favor from foreign sponsors rather than toward enlightening his compatriots.

Especially insensitive was his showing up in the wake of the Sichuan earthquake, video camera in hand, to expose the corruption behind the poor construction of public schools that killed many local children. The problems related to countryside schools are no state secret, especially to the grieving parents, but were already taken up as a serious nationwide discussion, including among the state-run media. A discussion of such gravity in a neo-Confucian society, which accords the highest esteem toward education, the school issue had to be handled with utmost propriety and rationality, and not as a controversy-stirring art statement aimed at foreign audiences.

In a consequent incident, the physically large artist pushed a local policeman, who responded with a light warning tap from a billy club to the assailant's head. Soon the artist's skullcap showed signs of swelling. Instead of going to a clinic in China, Ai Weiwei flew to Munich for treatment. His flight abroad, which risked a contusion from low cabin pressure, raised medical suspicions with a Hong Kong physician who told me that the brain swelling might have been symptomatic of a recreational vice from his bohemian lifestyle.

Father, Son and the Ghost

Ai Weiwei is no Surrealist revolutionary or Dada radical assaulting bourgeois sensibilities since he is firmly ensconced in the upper bracket of the cultural establishment. His artistic appeal to wide sections of the capital's elite lies in his ability to invoke a nostalgic longing for the old days when everyone was equal in common poverty, before economic reforms split the Chinese into rich and poor, privileged and exploited, and educated and benighted.

Better to be together and crushed under, his works tell the viewer, than to find yourself alone at the top. As contemporary China's "greatest artist," he knows what it means to be top dog.

Whatever innate talents he may possess, his successes are based on the easy access opened to the son a rehabilitated comrade. Since university, his career advancement was constantly favored over other less-connected rivals in compensation for the unjust punishment that had been meted out to his father. Other banned "rightist" intellectuals never lived to see redemption, perishing in the outland with reputations cast to the winds like ghosts. Meanwhile his old schoolmates and childhood friends were left behind, unrecognized in the provincial dust and grime.

Ai Weiwei is perfectly right not to give thanks to hypocrisy. Yet all the fawning favoritism with its inherent unfairness to his peers must have fueled self-doubt. He never had to earn and really struggle, for everything was given to him by his father's admirers who pulled the strings. How less compromised, how much more honest, how purer it would have been to remain unforgiven. A condemned man has nothing but his pride, but to be forgiven is to silently bear the shame. What Ai Weiwei likely suffers psychologically is an angst that drives his rage and rebellion: the guilt of the forgiven.

Part 2

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Post time 2011-11-11 08:12:38 |Display all floors

Bears Repeating...Part 3

Part 3

The Dark Ages

The business dealings that led to his detention can be outlined only in broad detail since court proceedings cannot be released until after conviction. The legal case in Shanghai is likely based on violations of zoning regulations, assessment of property value and perhaps illegal methods of clearing the land of tenants. If his case was watertight, the outspoken Ai Weiwei would have by now disclosed the details. His business methods are less than transparent as shown in his arts collective in Bejing.

In 1999 Ai Weiwei led his followers out of the increasingly commercialized 798 artists' colony to a nearby site in Caochangdi village (CCD). There, he demonstrated a rather limited ability at architecture with far less skill than his attempts at conceptual art. The crowded warren is built of plain red-bricks stuck together by a crudely applied impasto of cement. The high walls and sparse windows allow in little natural light. In the present era of the green buildings, the fluorescent-lit complex seems an artifact from the dark age of black attire and techno raves.

Inside, loft galleries serve as live-in quarters and business offices in violation of zoning regulations for residency as well as registration rules for foreign citizens. His coterie of artist friends and gallery owners amassed small fortunes subletting the cheaply built shells to foreigners beguiled by Beijing's hip art scene. Belonging with China's new avant garde was the cachet of Caochangdi Art Space.

The illegal rental scams, somehow overlooked by village officials, attracted the notice of the national tax office and Beijing municipal officials, who tried more than once to shut the place down. Then, following a 2006 crackdown on Beijing's rave discos, which were fueled by ketamine-laced Ecstasy smuggled in by Dutch and Israeli traffickers, anti-narcotics detectives began to focus on the city's bohemian art colonies.

The libertine lifestyle was modeled on anarchist havens in former East Berlin and Crete, which were used by Western intelligence agencies to promote youth revolutions through a false sense of drug-induced "creativity and freedom." American enthusiasm for psychotropic drugs in Iran, Egypt and Syria is described in State Department operative Jared Cohen's book "Children of the Jihad", as preparation for the Twitter protests and Jasmine revolutions.

The drug-fueled "free expression" necessary to contemporary art and politics, as defined by Frankfurt School social theorist Herbert Marcuse, had some horrific side effects. Ketamine causes brain swelling and hemorrhaging, Chinese medical doctors became alarmed by the evermore powerful dosages being distributed. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was also tracked the new Opium War streaming Ice, X, ket and heroin into and through China.

Drug use and casual sexual attitudes at Caochangdi added to the vices plaguing China's art scene, which include rampant forgeries of antiquities and fronting for money-launderers. Art dealers' collaboration with international mafia was uncovered in the shocking 2004 murder of Hong Kong's Swiss gallery owner Manfred Scheoni, who often met with Russian gangsters at Beijings's St. Regis Hotel. The criminalization of China's cultural industry is emerging as a shameful scandal in a nation deeply resentful of the foreign looting of masterworks by Western troops in the sack of the Summer Palace and by foreign adventurers who pilfered the Dunhuang treasures.

Increasingly, Chaochangdi art space was seen by visitors as a filthy rat hole, making some art patrons wonder whether Ai Weiwei was using political activism to fend off public demands for police investigation of his associates' criminal activities. His father's admirers in the cultural hierarchy could no longer block or restrain the mounting pressures against a prodigal son.

Jasmine Protests

Over recent months, the noose has been tightening. Beijing authorities, as the capital's rumor mill suggests, suspected that some Caochangdi galleries were used as a conduit for European and American intelligence funding for protests, including the failed Jasmine Revolution on Wangfujin shopping avenue. U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman's covert presence at the first protest with a pair of Marine bodyguards, caught on video by April Media, was followed by his Shanghai speech calling for the release of Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaobo.

This sort of interventionist foreign "solidarity" does nothing to dispel suspicions or disprove accusations. It seems that his sponsors in the United States, Netherlands and Germany are intent on pushing Ai Weiwei onto the gallows as a sacrificial victim. They don't have to push hard.

With his flippancy toward transgression, Ai Weiwei is his own worst enemy. At a March 2010 New York forum with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey - which coincided with covert Western plans for launching the Jasmine Revolutions - the married Ai Weiwei boasted to a stunned audience of his frequent use of short messages to chat up young women for sexual encounters. As any artist who has reached maturity knows, licentiousness is not the same as freedom. Artistic expression as well as other liberties do not come from radical posturing but are earned through self-discipline and taking responsibility for one's own actions.

Flagrant defiance of social mores does matter when it comes to impressionable young people, as stressed in his own words: "Your own acts or behavior tell the world who you are and at the same time what kind of society you think it should be." That should have been his Twitter message.

Cowardice of the Artistes

Ai Weiwei might find redemption if only he could become what he professes to be: the heir to the creator of Dada, Marcel Duchamp. The iconoclastic Frenchman's genius was rooted in his devastating wit. And that is exactly where his would-be successor has gone wrong, careening down the emotional blind alleys of anger and, worse, sentimentality. Humor is the only revenge against hypocrisy.

What's disturbing to someone who has worked in the art field in New York, and later as an occasional critic in Tokyo, is the sheepish code of political correctness among critics and artists, Chinese and foreign. By uncritically defending an egocentric bully like Ai Weiwei, the arts community shows its spinelessness in failing to question his nihilistic stance on art and life. A double standard is also at work here, when it comes to artistic freedom in China and the West. The critics are not exactly rushing out of cafes on the Left Bank or East Village to defend the free speech rights of John Galliano.

Are the authorities really to blame? The Chinese edition of Global Times stated: "China needs a multiplicity of voices, and for this reason diverse opinions should not be suppressed. Ai Weiwei, however, has gone too far in mimicking American ways and his behavior is naive and childish." That's hardly the stuff of repression, just a very light slap on the wrist.

Taking the liberty to summarize the present situation more bluntly than the well-mannered Chinese press: Ai Weiwei's involvement in financial irregularities, Western vices and foreign propaganda campaigns has done immeasurable harm to the democratic cause that he espouses and to the arts community. As a leading cultural figure, he should have shown better judgment in dealing with his Western sponsors, since those with ulterior motives have taken advantage of his gullibility while others have used him to push their business or political agendas (as happened before the Olympics), which have nothing to do with democracy for the Chinese people. Now that he's losing his credibility as an internationally recognized artist, those "sponsors" are going turn their backs on him.

The contemporary arts scene in Beijing and Shanghai is badly compromised - not due to government meddling or censorship but because of the crass motives of the artists themselves - and that, unfortunately, includes the would-be reformers. Hell can't be blamed on some devil when it's your own sins that put you there.

Part 3

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Post time 2011-11-11 08:13:50 |Display all floors

Bears Repeating...Part 4

Part 4

Art of the Masses for the Classes

The discussion in Beijing today is about the artist's social role and hardly about art. His work still should be judged apart from the current business and political scandal. His work is, ironically, similar to his own dig at former classmate Zhang Yimou. Both of these leading artists have transferred social realism's credo of "the masses" into the contemporary Chinese context of hypercapitalism with Confucian characteristics. The vast numbers of Ai Weiwei's old windows and doors piled at Kassel Documents 12 in 2007 and of artificial seeds at the Tate, like Zhang's army of dancers at the Olympic opening, are reduced to empty spectacle.

The difference is that Ai Weiwei does it intentionally as critique, while Zhang Yimou exploits grandiosity for its entertainment value. Their opposition is not a personal duel between a state-approved artist and a radical dissident, since both act as the "anointed" icons chosen for a two-line struggle within the governing elite over the role of art in contemporary China. How can art best serve the national interest: as a unifying tool or a corrective whip?

Missing from both their oeuvres, and from the debate, is the economy of means necessary to strong art. However positive the intent or outcome of a grand social enterprise, it is the individual who makes the sacrifice and pays the price. Thus the solitary person, despite and because of the uniqueness of one's quirks and aberrations, conveys the internalized trauma wrought by historical change that a million representatives cannot express. The individual suffers a high price for social change and only by examining this psychological toll can a true measure or appreciation of that progress be gained. At the end of this transitional reform era, one must let go of the forms of the past, since parodies of the Cultural Revolution are now trite. The challenge now is for artists to find a new way of seeing through the eyes of the individual.

Ai Weiwei has come full circle - from impoverished exile rising to the pinnacles of fame and now plummeting into disrepute as a pariah. Those brilliant fields of sunflowers, their promise of longing fulfilled and of a vision within reach, remain a world away from the darkening shadows over this forbidding city. Hope can be extinguished but art never dies since it's endlessly reborn - even if somewhere else.

Yoichi Shimatsu is Editor-at-large at the 4th Media, a Hong Kong-based environmental writer and former editor of the Japan Times Weekly.

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Post time 2011-11-11 09:42:39 |Display all floors
Originally posted by ganzhuolin at 2011-11-11 08:04
This was posted before...somewhere... but it bears repeating...
Part 1
Detained: Ai Weiwei, Con Artist
Post Categories: Editorial Column
By Yoichi Shimatzu | 11:40 BeiJing Time,Monday, Ap ...

Many thanks for posting that ..............

The title 'Rogues Gallery' is for a collection such as this and I had intended to post that same piece  .........

It is arduous work through the filter and you have helped me to a great extent ..........

Cheers  .............  

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Post time 2011-11-11 09:48:08 |Display all floors
Originally posted by seneca at 2011-11-11 09:12
Ai Weiwei has never claimed any major part in the design of the Bird's Nest. All erroneous attributionsof any credits were made by third parties.
But it suits the sinister agenda of some to put ...

Four irascible postings of such massive venom all aimed at your host country  ............

What a massive paradox you are  .........  

You even take the time to go back to Mao  ............

You do know he is dead ........ right .........  

Is that because you have so little to go on that you have to re-invent ..........

Try reading the articles with your mind and not your emotions  ..........

And I do mean that in the best possible manner .........

Still more to come yet   ............     

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Post time 2011-11-11 09:50:37 |Display all floors
Originally posted by saltandpepper at 2011-11-11 04:21
The of the earth.

Allegedly ........................

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Post time 2011-11-11 09:50:55 |Display all floors

Still more to come

Found some fun stuff while perusing the Blog expatter cited, let's start with this from "citizen":
Lots of laughably wrong stuff in this article.

He talks about ‘Errors in Fact’ with regard to Ai’s role in the Bird’s Nest, but the errors are all the writers. He says ‘Ai was not involved in any way in the building’s design’. In fact Ai was in partnership with the Swiss Architects and the Chinese group right from the beginning, as any history of the project will tell you. They all worked on the initial design, Li Xinggang recently saying that Ai was the most inspiring person in the world. He called Ai ‘ an artist as well as a thinker, a philosopher, an architect, a writer and a craftman; a man of full awareness, with independent judgment based on his distinguished perspective’. Herzog and De Meuron are also still very close to Ai, working on art installations and publications together.

Even the writers own account of Ai’s role makes no sense . He was speaking very negatively about the Olympics by 2007, so its hardly likely that, as the writer claims, he was ‘much later’ invited by the Government to offer opinions to the architects.

I could go on about factual nerrors and non-sequiturs but I guess if you are genuinely concerned, as the writer appears to be, by the fact that Ai was ‘personally slandering some government leaders’, and impressed by the fact a ‘commenter’ wrote of Ai that ‘like most Chinese dissidents, he is no good’, I would be simply wasting my breath.

And what to make of the writer’s deafening silence about the specific reason he’s labelled China’s conscience – his engagement with the child victims of tofu construction. Bit of an oversight there BearCanada?

Colin -Are you seriously looking to artists to ‘showcase their motherlands to the world’? I mean, seriously?
Good Gweilo: My job is the ideological quality control

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