Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist who is involved in political and social criticism. Being one of the most important artists today, he has won many awards in the art world for his installations, photography, sculptures, architecture, etc. Also, he has won many awards and nominations from different human rights organizations. His art and statements have been very controversial in China, leading the Chinese government to arrest and attack him more than once.
Ai Weiwei is openly critical of the Chinese government, never fearful to make statements such as claiming that the Chinese government is: “unimaginative, prevaricating, suspicious of its own people and utterly focused on self-preservation.” Claiming that the Chinese government does not believe in liberty, he appealed to the Western leaders to support the Chinese people on the struggle for the liberation from their government.
One of his most famous works concerns the death of 5,000 children during Sichuan earthquake. Ai Weiwei questioned how the earthquake collapsed particular buildings leaving the nearby buildings untouched. In his introspective show in Munich, entitled “So Sorry,” he created an installation out of 9,000 children’s backpacks. The backpacks spell out “she lived happily for seven years in this world,” which was a quote said by one of the parents of the victims.
Ai Weiwei, no matter his struggles and violent experiences with the Chinese government, remains hopeful that changes will happen. Seeing how the internet is helping people share thoughts and comments regarding political and social events in China, Weiwei believes that the Chinese people are getting more power on their hands. However: “Free information and communication on the Internet is forbidden in China, so you’re facing a great firewall to block all the major internet services, and within China you have 100,000 internet police just sitting there delete all blogs, whatever information they cannot appreciate…” Even though there are numerous obstacles to free virtual interaction, Chinese people continue to blog, chat, and communicate through the internet, changing the landscape of the political situation.
Proving the interrelation of art and politics, Weiwei said: “I came to art because I wanted to escape the other regulations of the society. The whole society is so political,” he said. “But the irony is that my art becomes more and more political.”
Seeing artistic examples such as the works of Weiwei and the Pussy Riot, do you think that art can bring about political change? What is the relationship between art and political? Can art be apolitical?