Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tell the Chinese government to release artist Ai Wei Wei

This post previously appeared on the Canvas, the National Art Gallery's blog. It's still there, but it's been edited for diplomatic reasons. ;)

UPDATE: Time Magazine's done a great story on this. Click here.)

(Image from Ai Wei Wei's blog, via Danwei.)

We know that the Singapore is by no means a model for freedom of speech in the arts. Our government also arrests our artists for dabbling in politics.

But that's the government. We're Singaporean citizens, PRs and residents who care about art, and most of us also care about free speech. Which is why we bloody well ought to tell the Chinese government that we do not approve of their jailing one of their foremost contemporary artists on obscure charges of "economic crimes" - probably linked to his support of pro-democracy activist activities in support of a Chinese Jasmine Revolution.

There's a petition here:

Please sign it. Please also share anything else you can think of which could help in this matter. To recap, Ai Wei Wei is most famous for being the designer of the Bird's Nest Stadium, showcased in the Beijing Olympics.

You may have seen his work at Art Stage Singapore - he created the colossal installation "Through" from the remnants of a demolished Qing dynasty house.
(Image via Snippets from the Manila Art Scene.)

He's spoken out against the Olympics, he's been beaten up by the police for testifying regarding casualties in the Sichuan Earthquake, he's been placed under house arrest and this January he had his newly built Shanghai studio destroyed by authorities, while visitors to the Tate Modern were ooh-ing and aah-ing over his "Sunflower Seeds" exhibition, consisting of 100 million handpainted porcelain sunflower seeds.

This February, amidst the government crackdown on pro-democracy activists, he cryptically posted the following on his Twitter account: "I didn’t care about jasmine at first, but people who are scared by jasmine sent out information about how harmful jasmine is often, which makes me realize that jasmine is what scares them the most. What a jasmine!"

On 3 April, government agents arrested Ai at the Beijing airport and seized papers and computers from his studio. That's pretty much all we know right now - no word on where he is or how he's doing.

A petition to release Ai on has been started by twelve leading figures in the international arts world, including the directors of the Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, and Tate Museum, have started a petition on demanding that the Chinese government free Ai Weiwei.

Of course, we should be supporting the release of all the activists, given that many of them have played a more instrumental part in this movement than Ai himself. However, given the Chinese government's pride in its artists, and its new emphasis on showcasing them - they've recently announced plans for the world's biggest art gallery - their arrest of Ai is particularly egregious.

Once again, the petition's here:

Hidup Revolusi Bunga Melur.

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