follow the campaign to free Ai Weiwei

The interweb is filling up with commentary on Ai Weiwei’s (and others’) detention on April 3rd. I’ve been adding them to this post (at least those I find are contributing new information and commentary) as they have come in. It started here on April 3rd in the NYT. And then in the WSJ here. And at ArtInfo. And on TED. And the New Yorker blog. And the New Yorker essay. And now on Voice of America. And Lebbeus Woods: This Cannot Pass. And ABC Arts. And Holland Cotter in the NYT. And the WSJ again. Even Bianca Jagger at Huffington Post. Then CNN reporting the Chinese official response. And The Guardian’s version of the same. And a petition on ArtDaily. And The Guardian again on his “economic crimes”. And The Australian. And at Bloomberg. Plus The Financial Times. Then Ben Davis on ArtInfo and a Friday update here.  And now this open letter (with a zillion signatures) in The Guardian. And more from Beijing by Evan Osnos at The New Yorker. And now a petition. The Irish Times. ArtDaily reports on continuing Chinese Government intransigence. April 10: It’s “killing the chicken to scare the monkey” says Jaime FlorCruz on CNN. And see Newsweek. And the Herald Scotland


April 11: apparently now it’s about obscenity (Michael Sheridan, The Oz): is this the offending image, on China Digital Times? It’s none of your business, China tells the West (Telegraph). And criticism of Bob Dylan, in The Times (Joe Joseph). April 12: He’s now rendered invisible, see Probe International (with more links). And Sean Wilentz defends Bob Dylan in the New Yorker. As does Jonathon Jones, in The Guardian. And Ian Crouch, again in the New Yorker. PBS Newshour summary here. April 13: The Christian Science Monitor. And where is Wen Tao, disappeared at the same time, at Huffington Post? April 14: The Guardian reports on contradictory invitations offered to AWW just prior to his arrest. Deutsche Welle reports on German debates about the purpose of the current exchange: The Age of the Enlightenment. And read here, in further detail. Colin Jones, the producer of the upcoming film Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, also gives an insider’s account at Dissent.

April 15: Art Info summarises the various rumours and responses. And there’s a world-wide sit-in planned for this Sunday, reported in the L.A. Times. April 16: Now The Guardian reports on other associates being arrested. And see The Committee to Protect Journalists. Michael Sainsbury, in The Australian, (“Brutal flipside of economic success”) points out that Julia Gillard will be put on the spot when she visits China next week. And see Austin Ramzy, in Time Magazine. April 17: NPR publishes an interview article by Laura Sydell. And see designboom. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reported as having made a personal plea to the Chinese Government for Ai Weiwei’s release. The NYT reports that 54 people have been detained during the current crackdown. A revealing interview with German architect of the Chinese National Museum, Meinhard von Gerkan at Spiegel Online. April 18: reportage on some of the demonstrations around the world on The Age here. And here on the blog WNYC. April 19th: read Ma Jian at Day by Day (The Day Weekly Digest) on the symbolic values of the sunflower seeds. And read Ben Evans who ruminates on the effects of the NY protest here at Art Info. The NYT watches the German angst over their Beijing exhibition The Age of Enlightenment. Maybe this gaggle of U.S. Senators will raise the issue. “It’s a tinderbox… it’s all about to blow” says Will Hutton, interviewed here by Ali Moore on the ABC. April 20th: ArtInfo reports that, the host of the AWW petition, was brought down by a denial of service attack. In Australia, press reports quote Prime Minister Julia Gillard as having said: ‘We regularly raise human rights and in a broad set of discussions I will raise human rights.” The Guardian’s Tania Branigan reports today that Ai Weiwei’s lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan is no longer in detention. The Economist sees the purge of public intellectuals, reporters and lawyers as a reflection of the nervousness of the leadership. And Charlie Finch at artnet argues the comparison with fascist Germany in the 1930s. See and read Alison Klayman on Frontline (with Hillary) drawing attention to the breadth of the purge. April 21: The Guardian on the hack attack. AFP reports that the US government has reiterated its concerns at the “extralegal detentions”. April 22: AFP reports the departing US Ambassador Jon Huntsman reiterating his call: “It is very sad that the Chinese government has seen a need to silence one of its most innovative and illustrious citizens,” he said in a written introduction to the artist, who is also a staunch activist, published by Time. “Ai… has shown compassion for his fellow citizens and spoken out for victims of government abuses, calling for political reforms to better serve the people,” Huntsman, who is due to leave his post in the next few days, added. “For the world, Ai continues to represent the promise of China.” Chinese Human Rights Defenders publish a list of those missing. April 24: AFP reports another significant Art Citizens demonstration in Hong Kong. Reported by BBC TV news.  Human Rights Watch asks Gillard to step up. And here’s VoA’s latest.  And meanwhile (Evan Osnos reports in the New Yorker) the Chinese Government exhorts the populace to be happy. April 27: The Asia Society references an instance of the use of parody to get around censorship. The Swiss Interior Minister, Didier Burkhalter, is reported as having raised the issue, and more forcefully than the Australian PM, it seems. And here’s an anonymous Chinese contributor to the austere Wesleyan Argus. Reuters reports the Chinese government’s warning that discussion of human rights is a “tool to meddle”, suggesting that something got lost in translation? Here’s the Asia Society’s Melissa Chiu speaking to CNN. On the U.S. Asia Law Institute (NYU School of Law) site Jerome A. Cohen unpacks the possible legal scenario(s) facing Ai Weiwei. April 28: Martin Gayford at Bloomberg asks whether, if Ai Weiwei is still in custody, the Chinese participation at the Venice Biennale (opens June 4) will be a focus for art world action. Tania Branigan reports today in the Guardian that two of Ai Weiwei’s oldest friends, Zuoxiao Zuzhou and Xiao Li have been detained at Shanghai Airport. It may be coincidental, but Zuoxiao Zuzhou yesterday published an article “Who doesn’t love Ai Weiwei?”, in the Hong Kong newspaper Mingpao. And in the context of the German exhibition in Beijing, The Age of Enlightenment, the NYT’s Didi Kirsten Tatlow compares Ai Weiwei’s circumstances to that of Voltaire… April 29: Geremie Barmé writes this incisive and informed essay on Ai Weiwei’s predicament on The China Beat. April 30: Read Barmé’s conclusion, and then: Jamil Anderson reports on Xu Bing’s “apolitical” stance. And then Chen Danqing, Ai Weiwei’s friend, interviewed in the LAT. May 1: The Chinese Embassy in London writes that this has nothing to do with freedom of speech, etc. (Ben Balnchard, at Reuters). And here (Peter Foster, The Telegraph) specifically in response to Salman Rushdie. Ai Weiwei’s wife and colleagues make their claims in this open letter to the authorities. And here is a dedicated blog: Australia’s voice remains silent on Ai Weiwei’s disappearance. In its own Open Letter, iconophilia asks whether the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard will have anything to say about Ai Weiwei when she visits China? And the answer is: not much, politely. A Chinese police officer, right, and a security guard stand outside the entrance to Ai Weiwei’s studio in Beijing Sunday, April 3, 2011. China blocked Ai Weiwei, one of its most famous contemporary artists, from taking a flight to Hong Kong on Sunday and police later raided his Beijing studio, the man’s assistant said. AP Photo/Ng Han Guan. Quotes: “The state is taking action against people who have peacefully demonstrated their ideas. They are writers – all they did is to express their minds through the internet. So the pattern is very clear. The state tries to maintain stability by crushing any thought of making change,” Ai says. “It could happen to me, because I did the same thing and in many cases I went much further and deeper. But I always think the government can learn from their mistakes – they should learn and should understand; they should be just as intelligent as anyone else. I have to be wishful [optimistic] in that sense.” (see Tania Branigan, in the Guardian, 18 March 2010) “So what is my activity? My activity is very simple, asking basic rights for people to freely express themselves and also to find a new structure, a new way of communicating. Because I’m an artist and this is what I do and I believe in that.” (CNN) “How can you predict what’s in a dictator’s mind?” he asked. “You know if you really think about them you are already a victim of them.” (npr) “They put you under house arrest, or they make you disappear,”‘ Ai Weiwei said in an interview. “That’s all they can do. There’s no facing the issue and discussing it; it’s all a very simple treatment. Every dirty job has to be done by the police. Then you become a police state, because they have to deal with every problem.” From Art Info 7 April: – Love the Future Indeed: In China, where countless government agents patrol sites behind the Great Firewall for any offending political content (and where telephone conversations are so closely monitored that some trigger phrases can immediately disconnect the call), it takes some creativity to voice opposition. The fact that even sympathetic publications universally self-censor to avoid reprisals is a sad problem too. So to rally citizens to protest the detention of Ai Weiwei, online commentators have taken up the slogan “Love the Future,” (爱未来) which both resembles and sounds similar to Ai’s name (艾未未). Calls range from the energetic (“To love the future is to love yourself. Fill the microblogs with love. Fill the motherland with love. Donate your love to the future of the motherland.”) to the despondent (“I really don’t dare believe that in this society, even love for the future can disappear”). [China Digital Times] AWW quoted in the Australian: “Dissidents are criminals. Only criminals have dissident ideas. The distinction between criminals and non-criminals is whether they have dissident views. If you think China has dissidents, you’re a criminal. The reason China has no criminals [dissidents?] is because they have already become criminals.” And from Bloomberg (above): Departing U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman said yesterday America will defend the rights of Chinese human rights activists such as Ai and jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo. Future ambassadors “will continue to speak up in defense of social activists, like Liu Xiaobo, Chen Guangcheng and now Ai Weiwei, who challenge the Chinese government to serve the public in all cases and at all times,” Huntsman said in a speech in Shanghai. And, now, in The Age (7th April) there’s a story about “The Initiators and Organisers of the Chinese Jasmine Revolution” who are said to be the people who first launched the idea of a peaceful revolution on February 17. And Bob Dylan (on tour in China) appears to have accepted censorship of his playlist, and has kept his mouth shut over AWW. Great photograph in The Australian here. And reported here in the Washington Post. And for related ambient experiences, read Bill Shiller, at the Toronto Star. A slideshow of AWW’s work has been posted by The Washington Post. And here’s Imagine’s Without Fear or Favour on YouTube. From which these marble surveillance cameras were snapped:


#1 Australian Dissident Artist 12131438 on 04.04.11 at 6:33 pm

So why are they arresting an artist?? Artists are harmless. Maybe a bit noisy, but they are hardly subversive revolutionaries. They aren’t about to threaten their own careers now, are they?

And Ai WeiWei is the designer of the Chinese Olympic Stadium. He went out of his way to try and make China look good in the eyes of the world. That’s hardly something an anti-government subversive is going to do. Sure, he says some provocative things, but he’s hardly organising a revolution.

I think the Chinese government is seriously frightened. And fragile. Otherwise why go after artists. I mean really!

#2 ampersand duck on 04.08.11 at 10:47 am

Bob Dylan is a smart man; I think he realises that he can do a lot more when he’s there than if he refuses to go because of a songlist.

#3 Quentin on 04.08.11 at 11:30 am

i disagree with the first comment there … its exactly in that kind of cultural context that artists and other cultural producers can come into their own. Somewhere like China art can become a more viable method of resistance and commentary, especially when other avenues like free media etc aren’t part of the mix.

Even his involvement in state sanctioned projects like the stadium, or more recently, the Beijing airport arrivals hall, carries the potential to be critical simply because his public persona, and the relative influence of his views grows in relation to such high profile projects. Hence the impact of his calculated public withdrawal of support for the Olympics following his collaboration on the stadium..and the International coverage following his beating. AWW is great because he uses that potential to be critical at every opportunity, and in doing so also tests the relative protection his International profile offers. Its a double bind for the Chinese government…
As for Bob Dylan – surely at this stage we should be looking to our politicians to comment, not to aging folk singers? Although apparently when Bjork played Beijing she asked the government to Free Tibet, which was nice. Thanks for the interesting post Iconophilia.

#4 preconditional on 05.12.11 at 5:14 am

fine work ! if situations are generally conditioned through qualified individuals, then let them uphold the universal transition.

#5 Andrew Lowe on 05.24.11 at 11:54 pm

I created a poster in solidarity:

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