Mmm. River crabs.
If you’ve been following Chinese art world news at all lately, you’ve heard about Ai Weiwei. He has an exhibit up right now at the Tate Modern in London, an installation piece where he created thousands (tens of thousands? I don’t know) of sunflower seeds out of ceramic, and installed them on the floor, where visitors could walk over them; this was put to an end fairly quickly, due to fears over the amount of ceramic dust being thrown up into the air in the process. … At the same time, Ai Weiwei, who had been asked (or even paid?) by the authorities to build a new $1.1m studio in Shanghai, was now being told it was to be demolished. A huge party was planned, and held, at which river crabs, a local delicacy, were served, the word for river crab, hexie, being a homonym and pun for “harmony” (和諧), a personal and political statement about the kind of harmonious society the CCP seeks to create, where there is no dissent. Ai Weiwei was placed under house arrest for a brief time, but was able to Tweet and otherwise communicate from his home.
And that’s basically all I know about it. I must admit, I had heard of Ai Weiwei before, but didn’t know anything about his work, or his protests…
This has been big news, however, in the last week or two, and so I felt I had to share it. Here are some links to fuller coverage and analysis of the house arrest and the party, thanks to Art Radar Asia:
*Ai Weiwei’s Studio Party Canceled; Art Radar was There
*The Internet is the best gift to China, and will lead to the downfall of dictatorship, Ai Weiwei says
*TIME: China’s House Arrest of Artist Ai Weiwei
It is wonderful to see Ai Weiwei safely returned to (relative) freedom and public activity, to see that the party was able to be held with a minimum of interference from the authorities, and to see that protests and anti-government comments continue to go on. China’s desire to eliminate dissent, and the methods they have and might use, terrify me. I do believe that there is a major need for regime change there, for the benefit of the whole world. But, it is at least reassuring, I suppose, to see that at least in this one instance, if not more generally these days, they seem to be acting a lot more leniently than they have in the past.