Ai Weiwei

By Lauren Tighe

Technology has provided so many opportunities for us, and it is now fully ingrained in our society, of course there are some downsides too. In ‘Automated; Ai Weiwei’ we ponder the discussions between Melissa Chiu and, artist and activist, Ai Weiwei during day one of the live Hawai’i Contemporary Art Summit. The Summit ran from the 10th till the 13th of February and is available to watch free on demand Here until the 28th of February.

Known for his art and activism, Weiwei grew up in difficult conditions in the far-North-West of China because of his father’s exile. Through his art, film, and sculpture he has continuously and holistically become one of the most vocalized observers and critics of China, helping to unearth corruption and fight for human rights. He sees the authoritarian state and political situation as his ‘readymade’.

Weiwei’s demeanour and aura conveyed wisdom and stoicism while he spoke with a peaceful, gentle voice, about his activism, art, films, and life. Each of his statements and thoughts were encapsulating and awe inspiring to experience, in a sense, spiritual.

‘Cockroach’ film trailer by Ai Weiwei, YouTube

Due to Ai Weiwei’s activism and his past imprisonment in China, trying to create films and documentaries there, come with a set of obstacles. His recent film ‘Cockroach’ documents the Hong Kong protests that took place from 2019 until late 2020. Unable to direct on location, the wonders of technology provided him with the tools he needed to direct from afar. He explained his process as having a crew on location that he could skype from home as they are filming, going through what shots he wanted and what he did not.

Vpro documentary- Ai Weiwei on China, YouTube

It is interesting to consider that without the use of video calls, lockdown restrictions would have been more difficult to face for many of us. Weiwei explains that he does not feel the effects of lockdown as strongly, because he is used to these restrictions, that having these obstacles only encourages him to overcome them. He has made three films in 2020 and states that the restrictions have made him more engaged than before. The imagery in his films is direct, confrontational, and controversial; completely contrasting with his calm and meditative disposition.

‘Eat, Drink and be Merry’ Film by Ai Weiwei, YouTube

Chui and Weiwei discuss his other works of art and how Ai interprets the readymade movement by using the authoritarian state and political situation as his readymade, which he puts into different contexts, rather than using objects. For him, and many modern artists, the idea comes first and the choice of medium second.  

As the conversation ends, he imparts his wisdom and knowledge to advise about art and life:

“Have your own language…only that can identify you…walk your own way, let interests lead you…you will be enriched”.

“We have to realise life is short…appreciate the daily…find things meaningful to ourselves, not anyone else, but ourselves”.

– Ai Weiwei

If you enjoyed reading ‘Automated; Ai Weiwei’ you might also like to read ‘Automated; Through the lens’ Here. For more information about Hawai’i Contemporary Art Summit, and to watch the talks of their keynote speakers click Here. To find out more about Ai Weiwei, and watch his films, click Here.

Large image photograph “Ai Weiwei trees Downing college” by Verbcatcher licensed under cc-by-sa-4.0.

Small icon image photograph “Ai Weiwei” by Alfred Weidinger under cc-by-2.0