Ai Weiwei and ‘Hurt Feelings’Posted: June 6, 2011
I got the idea to start a blog from reading Ai Weiwei’s Blog. The guy’s in jail, sent there by the petty Chinese government bureaucrats he takes great joy in skewering. Of the widely adored opening ceremony for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing he writes: “Those incompetent tools perverted the Olympic opening ceremony into the archetypal example of bogus ‘traditional’ rubbish, a blasphemous ‘spirit of liberty,’ a visual crap pile of phony affection and hypocritical unction.” Several times he mocks Chinese officials’ “hurt feelings” and now his blog is shut down, the government fearing that his writing will incite more ill will, or worse, a revolution to replace the one they’ve been claiming has been happening for over 50 years.
A few months ago I went to a demonstration for his cause in front of the Chinese embassy in New York, called “1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei,” it’s title setting a clear goal for a critical mass of protest. On a postcard perfect spring day it looked like less than 400 people showed up and many, like me, seemed at a loss for what to do: sit on the chair you brought or follow the guy with the bullhorn? Mingle about the crowd as if you were at an art opening or act unsocial in solidarity with the imprisoned artist. I left after sitting for a photo-op on the stool I brought. This demonstration and others like it have unimpressed Chinese authorities; the guy’s still in jail.
Meanwhile governing and politicking continue to uninspire here in America. Obama continues to fold like the cheap Chinatown stool I brought to the demonstration. People called Democrats and Republicans dress exactly the same, talk the same talk, threaten each other unconvincingly, and look grotesquely old on your HD flatscreen. Some New York congressman recently tweeted lewd pictures of himself to some woman he’s never met before and tearily admitted to it. His constituents grapple with being betrayed, but what they can’t figure is that it’s all written and they’re just playing the part. Eventually this guy Weiner and his team will orchestrate his redemption. It’ll be around the same time these dudes decide the word “Change” sounds old.
I’m thankful to be in the arts, where slickly making fun of stiffs like American politicians is part of my daily grind. It’s Ai Weiwei’s job too but he’s got much higher stakes and his game is played on a mine field. It is indeed China’s century.