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.