41 Days since the PRC disappeared Ai Weiwei

Per, the authorities should have charged or released the detained artist five days ago. Continuing to detain Ai without filing charges is a violation of China’s criminal procedures.

Still, Ai Weiwei: A Conversation, Tate Channel

Still, Ai Weiwei: A Conversation, Tate Channel

Still, Ai Weiwei: A conversation, Tate Channel

Still, Ai Weiwei: A conversation, Tate Channel

The Tate Modern posted a short, moving video with clips from Ai Weiwei’s October 20, 2010 interview at TM, as well as shots of his Sunflower Seeds installation in Turbine Hall. Presciently, an audience member asks Ai, “Why aren’t you in jail?”

Ai’s response:

“I don’t want to stop myself; maybe I will be stopped by some other kind of force. You know, life is like that. I think you have to take chances.”

Ai’s Zodiac Heads public sculptures opened last week in New York, and this week in London. Tom Scocca posted a pointed article in the Washington Post on May 4:

All that’s missing this time around is the artist — a humiliation inflicted by China on itself….

He provoked the system, in a seemingly open-ended piece of performance art, by pretending it was reasonable and accountable that an ordinary citizen had the right to dissent.

Disappointed with the poor coverage of the recent US-China human rights talks, I was glad to read that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ratcheted up the rhetoric on China’s human rights violations in her recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic Monthly (May 10, 2011). The discussion focused on the Arab spring and Middle East peace process, but in passing Secretary Clinton said,

we have encouraged consistently, both publicly and privately, reform and recognition and protection of human rights. But we don’t walk away from dealing with China because we think they have a deplorable human rights record….

Goldberg: And (the Chinese) are acting very scared right now, in fact.

Clinton: Well, they are. They’re worried, and they are trying to stop history, which is a fool’s errand. They cannot do it. But they’re going to hold it off as long as possible.

Spoken at the Zodiac Heads ceremony:

Without freedom of speech there is no modern world, just a barbaric one.

(Alexandra Munroe, senior curator of Asian art, Guggenheim Museum, via Roberta Smith on NYT)

Ai’s disappearance is likely part of a crackdown following the Arab spring, which the artist warned Dan Rather about just 10 days before his disappearance. Dozens of thinkers, bloggers, radicals and reformists have been detained. As the PRC refuses to charge or release Ai, it seems more likely that the intention is suppression — to repress a Jasmine Revolution in China. In fact, the Chinese authorities are even taking steps to ban jasmine (see Andrew Jacobs and Jonathan Ansfield’s “Catching Scent of Revolution, China Moves to Snip Jasmine,” New York Times, May 10, 2011), the word and the flower, as if they could suppress inevitable change and progess:

the Chinese characters for jasmine have been intermittently blocked in text messages while videos of President Hu Jintao singing “Mo Li Hua,” a Qing dynasty paean to the flower, have been plucked from the Web…. the police issued an open-ended jasmine ban at a number of retail and wholesale flower markets around Beijing.

For continued coverage, see Eyeteeth, a Minneapolis-based art blog that posts excellent round-ups of news related to Ai Weiwei.


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