"Just joined @theartmarket_ca. What a great site to discover other artists in Canada."
- Thirteenth Avenue Gallery, calgary ab
july 28, 2012
the boundary between art and politics has never been crisp, but nowhere is it blurrier than mainland china.
switching back and forth between corporate capitalism and the rhetoric of the old communist cadres, the emerging regime has yet to find a comfort zone with the creative impulse, and that’s why ai weiwei’s story may be the most important yarn unfolding in the current art world.
First-time filmmaker Alison Klayman had no real idea what she was walking into when she agreed to shoot some video for a 2008 show of Weiwei’s New York City photographs in Beijing, but she ended up following the artist through three years of tumult, all of which is chronicled in her new film, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, opening July 27 in select Canadian cities.
“The big surprise for me was how significant those three years would be in his life. It was total coincidence, because I just wanted to make a good portrait of who he was,” says Klayman, who watched Weiwei go from celebrated designer of the Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium to government detainee.
The fall from grace was the result of the artist’s desire to list the names of all the dead children who were lost in the Sichuan earthquake. The authorities refused to give the details, so Weiwei went out with a group of activists, town by town, and collected the names of more than 5,000 dead young people.
When he posted these names in public, the government felt it was an act of potential sedition and he was censured. But he did not stop.
By the time the film ends in June of 2011, we’re watching a thin and tired Weiwei emerge from three months in detention. The charge was tax evasion, but as the movie makes clear, money doesn’t appear to be part of his raison d’etre.
“He doesn’t make a separation between art and politics,” says Klayman, 27. “He never took off one hat or another. Even if he is a public intellectual, I never once saw him distance himself from his role, and his idea of himself, as an artist.”
Whether the project is based in social media and Weiwei’s commitment to Twitter, or a fine arts installation for the Tate Modern that involved the creation and display of 100 million hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds, his work pushes all the boundaries.
“But the work isn’t particularly didactic, either,” Klayman says. “What is the political critique of 100 million sunflower seeds? There are a lot of meanings, not just one.”
Klayman says the fear to express truth lurks everywhere, even places where freedom is exalted as gospel. “In China, you can see it as repressing, but in America, we also feel repressed by the inability to change things. The oppression of the status quo prohibits people from speaking out,” she says.
“I guess I don’t have a fully well-thought-out thing to say about it, but the best news coverage comes from comedy shows in terms of American culture. We are turning to making statements through art, comedy, entertainment,” she says. “And sometimes, that works to change people’s minds better than a politician coming out and saying something.”
via: the national post
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