Many people think that Ai Weiwei is the most important artist in the world. When you have watched this powerful film you will agree.
It covers a turbulent period in the artist’s life beginning with the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake when Wei Wei and helpers set out to document the names of all the young students who had died when all the ‘tofu’ achool architecture collapsed. Travelling to support another earthquake activist who is on trial, Weiwei is hit in the head by police and almost dies as a result in Munich due to a brain haemorrhage during his ‘So Sorry’ show in Munich.
We see Weiwei at home with his flock of stray cats, we meet his wife, mum, brother and baby (from an extramarital affair) and follow him to the Tate Modern as they install his 100 million individually painted porcelain sunflower seeds in the Turbine Hall.
The film shows us his history. His father Ai Qing was a noted poet who was imprisoned in a labour camp for 19 years and humiliated. As a result, he tried to commit suicide several times. The young Ai saw it all.
The film is good on Weiwei’s twelve years in New York where was the ‘godfather’ of Chinese students in the city. He took thousands of black and white photos (which have been subsequently exhibited) including many at the punk/new wave hangout CBGBs which he attended nightly.
Interesting too is Weiwei’s work in the early 90s when he published a series of underground books with different colour covers (black, white and grey) showcasing art, poetry and images banned by the authorities.
The film ends with Weiwei’s “disappearance” into police custody and his eventual release into virtual house arrest. Surveillance cameras are installed to monitor his movements and he is forbidden to talk to the media.
Ai Wei Wei believes ‘Blogs and the internet ar the great invention of our time’. His Twitter address is @:aiww ; at time of writing he has 181,522 followers and has posted 84,412 tweets.
AI Wei Wei is a huge character and a man of great courage yet he says: ‘I am so fearful but If you don’t act the dangers become stronger.’
Ai Weiwei describes himself as an ‘eternal optimist’ who is still exhilarated and curious about life and believes in possibilities.
This film is a powerful inspiration. Don’t miss it. Spread the word.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Image by Flickr user DigiPub (CC BY-ND 2.0).
Nov 23rd: Q&A: AI WEIWEI
GREAT SITES ON AI WEIWEI AND HIS WORK
AI WEIWEI ON TED [Dated 4 April 2011, this smuggled video is a powerful statement from the man himself, updating what has happened since the film was made]