Ai Weiwei on Modern China
Why is Chinese artist Ai Weiwei an outspoken critic of China’s government?
April 8, 2011
1. How do you describe modern-day China?
“China is like a runner sprinting very fast — but it has a heart condition.”
2. What is your main frustration with China?
“Even after 30 years of opening up with such an economic boom, the government doesn’t want to change the political structure.”
3. What other problems plague China’s society?
“There are so many hidden problems — corruption, total loss of ideology, the tendency of the judicial system to stick to party lines. There’s no fairness or justice.”
4. In your view, what is the main duty of an artist?
“To protect the right of expression is the central part of an artist’s activity. In China, many essential rights are lacking, and I wanted to remind people of this.”
5. Are you frustrated that more Chinese don’t protest?
“I tell people that because you don’t bear any responsibility, you put me in danger. If we all say the same thing, then I think the government has to listen. But because no one is saying it, I become singled out, even though what I’m saying is common sense.”
6. In other words?
“I think a lot of people — especially artists and intellectuals — just try to make excuses.”
7. What do you seek to accomplish with your art?
“My work is always dealing with real or fake, authenticity and value and how value relates to current political and social understandings and misunderstandings.”
8. Do you view your activism as an integral part of your art?
“I think my stance and my way of life is my most important art. Those other works might be collectible — something you can hang on the wall — but that’s just a conventional perspective.”
9. Do you cherish your status as an iconoclast?
“We shouldn’t do things a certain way just because Rembrandt did it that way. If Shakespeare were alive today, he might be writing on Twitter.”
10. And finally, why do you welcome the Chinese government’s suspicion of you?
“Being threatened is addictive. When those in power are infatuated with you, you feel valued.”
Each edition of “Read My Lips” presents quotes made by the featured individual at the time specified in the answers. However, it is a “virtual” interview only — insofar as we have added questions in order to provide a better context to the thoughts expressed.