Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been in the news a lot lately, whether for his sunflower seeds installation at the Tate Modern, or his house arrest and studio party.
As for why the authorities would approach him to build a studio, and then shortly afterwards decide he didn’t have the right permits and have it demolished, I gather there are complexities I am missing.
But, between the party featuring a dinner of river crabs (the word for which is a homonym for “harmony”, used here ironically and accusatively), other activities, and the general media presence and response in recent months, Mr. Ai is said to have “come to see his conflict with government officials as performance art.”1 And I can sort of see it. It’s certainly serious, and real, not merely a performance, but, in terms of the way the eyes of the (art) world are watching, it really does function in some ways as a performance. It seems almost humorous and nonsensical, or it would if it weren’t so deadly serious. I sincerely hope that Mr. Ai is not more severely punished by the government for his critical artworks and comments.
The river crabs party was held in protest against the demolition of the studio he erected over the last few years, and as a goodbye party for this magnificent art space which was only completed this past July. Authorities said they were going to knock it all down sometime in February, but, this past week, boom, down it went.
ART RADAR ASIA has gathered a number of reports on the events. Much thanks to them for this, and for their always excellent reporting. If you haven’t checked out their page, please do.
(1) Wong, Edward. “Chinese Authorities Raze an Artist’s Studio.” New York Times. 12 January 2011.