To me Ai Weiwei defines courage. He defines the role of the artist as taking a leadership role in transforming society and speaking out against oppression no matter what the cost.
A month ago, I viewed the recent documentary film Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry that is making the festival rounds. It is a remarkable film that provides a candid look at an incredible artist who has focused much of his work towards speaking out against one of the most oppressive and undemocratic forces on the planet: his own government.
The film ends abruptly with Ai Weiwei returning from a secret detention when the Chinese government detained him for 81 days without charges. He now lives essentially under home arrest. The New York Times recently reported that "Mr. Ai is not allowed to leave Beijing, and plainclothes security officers are stationed on his street around the clock. A security camera is trained on the main entrance of his studio and home in the Caochangdi district of Beijing." Ai Weiwei recently took down the live web cam feed of his home/studio (a critique of the 24-hour government surveillance of him) after the Chinese government instructed him to pull the plug.
It goes without saying that the time to stand in solidarity with Ai Weiwei is now, and it was yesterday, and the many days that he was held as a political prisoner. I like to think of artists as sharing a common bond, one that transcends nation states and borders, and Ai Weiwei is an artist and a courageous individual who deserves our admiration and collective support.
One way to stand up for him is to continue to speak out against the Chinese government AND the corporations and cultural institutions in the US and beyond that turn a blind eye to the corrupt autocratic rule of the Chinese government in the hopes of reaping profits. If others in the Justseeds blog community have ideas on ways to lend solidarity to Ai Weiwei, please comment.