ARTICLE AI WEIWEI
PHOTOGRAPHY AI WEIWEI
IN OUR FIRST SNEAK PEEK INTO V91 THE REBEL ISSUE—ON NEWSSTANDS IN SEPTEMBER—ONE OF OUR VERY FAVORITE RULE-BREAKERS NOMINATES AN ARTIST WHO CAN'T BE CONTAINED
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"FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IS ESSENTIAL TO HUMAN EXISTENCE," WRITES ARTIST AND ACTIVIST AI WEIWEI IN THIS OPEN LETTER ABOUT RIGHTEOUSNESS, REBELLION, AND THE HEALING POWER OF ART
I think of “rebels” as those who do not fit into the society they live in or are not satisfied with their current reality, for the power structure in place or its dominant ideology conflicts with their beliefs or conditions. Rebellion is a product of social injustice. It is a phenomenon of a developing civil society, in which the oppressed are aware and present. Intellectually, the rebel voice is always the most compelling argument.
In 2011, I was detained for 81 days due to false accusations of tax evasion. My studio is under constant video surveillance. My passport is still held by the police, and I am unable to freely travel. All of these restrictions have given me a new perspective as to what freedom is really about and also why some might feel the need to repress it. It makes me question whether it is possible to limit freedom. These restrictions have made me understand our world in a unique way. Sometimes I almost feel glad this has happened to me. If some of us must suffer this uncomfortable situation, I would rather it be myself than another.
Because I am physically restricted from travel, I have taken to social media as a means of virtual mobility. Social media has the potential to allow the unrestricted interchange of ideas necessary for positive social change. Much about social media is related to personal freedom; it is a vehicle for new ideas and communication. In the future, with the power of the Internet, I think we can avoid conflicts, because everything is open for discussion, everything can be shared, and dialogues can be facilitated. Rebellion only happens in oppressed societies where communication is blocked or filtered, where there is no public sphere.
I got into art because I wanted to take a different path. Having a constant dissatisfaction and a critical mind, art brings me into unpredictable areas. Sometimes joy, sometimes discomfort, and even danger. However, that is what exercising freedom of expression is all about; our instincts and intellect struggle toward new experiences and possibilities. Freedom of expression is essential to human existence.
Art changes our lives. It survives under the most awkward and uncomfortable situations. It elevates our collective consciousness. It enables us to cast doubts on authority and the sanctity of social conventions. I make art with the hope that it might stimulate an emotional and intellectual response within viewers. I hope my art can facilitate necessary conversations about society. I hope my art can save me from drowning in reality.
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The Fake Case is in select theaters now