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Ai WeiWei: ‘Fighting is a symptom of life.’

Copy of Intelligence is really a kind of taste- taste in ideas.”- Susan SontagFailure is notan option

Fighting is a symptom of life.
Ai Weiwei

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Arts Photography

Artist Ai Weiwei flips off statues around the world

ai weiwei middle finger protest
Courtesy © 2015 Ai Weiwei

Fighting is a symptom of life. — Ai Weiwei

Admit it, it feels great to flip the finger. Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei has been doing it as an act of protest for years. From the Louvre to Tiananmen Square, all the way to the White House, he has given the middle finger to so many global establishments that he created a photo-series called Study of Perspective (1995 to 2003).

The video below also highlights his current exhibition at the The Museum of Cycladic Art. It is the first time Weiwei has presented his work at an archaeological museum. Some of the newer pieces were created to bring awareness to the refugee crisis in Greece.

He also stitched together 12,030 images taken from January 2015 to April 2016, creating a massive piece of iPhone wallpaper. Most of the images were taken on his trip to the Greek island of Lesbos to show the world poor refugee living conditions.

ai weiwei lesbos refugee crisis in greence
“My favourite word? It’s ‘act.’ “.

(h/t Open Culture)

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Arts Creativity

Ai Weiwei on Beijing surveillance

ai weiwei
Big brother

One of the key traits of any artist is to protect against and take advantage of the contradictions. It goes back to what F. Scott Fitzgerald said about intelligence: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

In this video, Chinese dissident/artist Ai Weiwei explains why he calls Beijing his home.

“I wouldn’t think Beijing’s a prison for me. But Beijing is definitely a prison for freedom of speech.”

If you forward to 4:20 in (here are the screenshots), you can see how Weiwei plays off the state supervision, a kind of inspirational friction that energizes him to create art that expresses “freedom of speech.”

Nevertheless, his celebrity compatriot Jackie Chan embraces the China’s constraints on freedom.

“I’m not sure if it is good to have freedom or not. I’m really confused now. If you are too free, you are like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic. I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we are not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”

Despite their contradictory views on Chinese modernity, it’s clear that both artists love China the same, just for different reasons.


Bonus 😕:  The Germans have a saying for concurrent possibilities of “Yes” and “No,” called Jein.

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Only 1 in 3 Americans Claim That Social Media is Important to Them

Americans get bored too easily, especially males.  

But this tidbit is more interesting:  

“On a global scale, social media is rated important (top-2 box) by the highest proportion of respondents in Turkey (64%), Brazil (63%), Indonesia (62%), China (61%) and Saudi Arabia (59%). By comparison, social is important to the smallest proportion of respondents in France (17%) and Japan (24%).”

Social media is more important in emerging countries where the governments shun civil rights. 

“If you don’t act, the danger becomes stronger.” – Ai Weiwei

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Pragmatic Rebellion

How often do you break the rules? How often are you the person to stand up against something everyone knows is absurd?

People are standing up to fight wrongdoing:

  • Birkan Isin saved an Istanbul park from destruction and sparked Turkey’s mass protests
  • Snowden gut checked the NSA and lit a worldwide discussion on the future of Internet privacy
  • Ai Wewei continues to expose the flaws of “Chinese democracy” through his art

All it takes is one person to stand up and point out obvious injustices. A practical cause quickly creates awareness and widespread advocacy.

Everyone knows what’s right but is afraid to speak up or act. Racial segregtation would’ve persisted if Rosa Parks simply gave up her seat.

Rebellion is sometimes pragmatic, not a threat against the rules but a chance to question them and clean them up. But it takes balls to be the one to rise and light that fire. Risk can be life-threatening. So is inaction.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

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The people who control culture in China have no culture.

Ai Weiwei
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The practice of photography is no longer a means for recording reality. Instead, it has become reality itself.

— Ai WeiweiSuccumb

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Imagine one day, the hateful world around you collapses. And it is your attitude, words and actions that put an end to it.

Ai Weiwei
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You don’t have to sell out…

in order to be a famous artist.  You just have to make remarkable content that appeals to both a passionate niche and mass consumers.  

Artists such as Radiohead, Ai WeiWei, and Seth Godin are not intentionally famous. They’re famous because they produce quality, transformative content.

They make art that they know they’ll like and what they think the audience, both intellectuals and the masses, will appreciate. 

The pressure is always on the artist to create an element of provocation and obscurity without being too misunderstood or misleading.     

Your audience should never know you completely.  The best artists maintain that mystique.  

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Chinese dissident Ai WeiWei adds even more irony to Psy’s Gangnam video. Creating revolution through comedic irony. 
Chinese dissident Ai WeiWei adds even more irony to Psy’s Gangnam video. Creating revolution through comedic irony.