Arrested for your thoughts

Ai Wei Wei standing in front of his installation, Remembering

We sometimes ask ourselves, at least I do, what are our limits to design and art? Sometimes it seems like anything is possible when it comes to design and there are almost no limits. Apparently there are and if you happen to cross this particular one, you better prepare yourself to stand up and fight or give in. What would you do and what am I talking out? I’m talking about Ai Weiwei, a well-known Chinese artist, designer and someone who isn’t afraid to challenge his government. When it comes to his work, Ai Weiwei is known as an artist who mixes his art and politics with no fear of speaking his mind about Chinese government censorship and its legal system.

His installation piece in Munich, Remembering, does just that, remembering the lost lives of children in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and challenging China’s construction and building codes weakening foundations of schools leading to the thousands of deaths. The installation consists of 9,000 backpacks with the words of a mother who had lost her child in the earthquake: “She lived happily for seven years in this world.”

“Remembering” installation

In 2009, Ai Weiwei’s blog was shut down and any post concerning the earthquake was deleted. From then til today, Ai Weiwei was detained by China’s government for 81 days and released last June. His architecture firm is now being shut down by the government along with numerous accusations. Before I knew about this project and looked in to anything else about him, I had only watched a 2.5 minute documentary preview about Ai Weiwei and was already filled with admiration. Design is suppose to be expressive, doing the unthinkable, making change and affecting the people around us. Ai Weiwei reminds us all just that. Art and architecture may have limits but that doesn’t mean we cannot push them or fight for what we believe design can teach us. Obviously I am shocked at the actions China’s government has taken upon Ai Weiwei but my real focus in the end is the people out there that are willing to push the limits in a whole different way.

Ai Weiwei says in his upcoming documentary:

“Freedom is a pretty strange thing. Once you’ve experienced it, it remains in your heart, and no one can take it away.”



Sources: (documentary preview)


One comment

  1. clausen1598

    I really enjoyed seeing someone write about the controversial issues surrounding the designer Ai Weiwei. This dissident designer who is known for his outspoken criticism concerning corruption and unethical building practices in China has undergone forced detainment, harassment, and most recently the forced closure of his firm Fake Cultural Development ltd. The closure is a result of the firm’s business license being revoked by the Chinese government. The Chinese government claims that Fake Cultural Development ltd. failed to complete re-registration requirements resulting in the design firm losing it business license. Ai Weiwei claims that it would have been impossible for him to submit the required documents because the Chinese government had confiscated all of his computers and documents when he was detained without reason for eighty-one days the previous year. According to Ai Weiwei, “they’ve returned computers, but not the accounting documents related to taxes”. Weiwei has stated that if his firm is closed he will not be able to pay the fines that have been compiled against him concerning tax evasion.
    Many view these charges as another form of intimidation to try and silence the outspoken artist. Weiwei has stated, “If they shut down the company, then entities to pay any fine will not exist… I feel this waives any penalties for the company”. In addition to his firms potential closure he has also been denied the right to leave the country. A recent article written by the New York Times reports on Ai Weiwei’s inability to leave and speak at multiple lecturing events at institutions such as Harvard, Princeton, and New York University. The artist will also be excluded from his own exhibition on October seventh in Washington. In congruence with your post it is clear that Ai Weiwei isn’t going to back down either in his work as a designer, or as one of China’s most famous dissidents.

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