If you log on to Weiweicam (.com), you’ll see a blank website, as it was aborted within 46 hours of its launch on April 3, this year. This is why — after an 81-day police detention last April for his belief that a stance on political and social issues was an artiste’s moral prerogative — this year, Chinese contemporary artiste Ai Weiwei launched the website, where four web cameras streamed his activities live onto the Internet in an attempt to ease the efforts of continuous surveillance by his tormentors.
Curator Sumesh Sharma has arranged a 10-day screening of four films that feature the artiste’s documentation of acts that elaborate the excesses of the state, called Arranging Chairs for Ai Weiwei. The films deal with bureaucratic corruption, obstruction of justice, state violence, suppression of human rights, and his struggle with police surveillance. The movies include So Sorry (2011), Ordos 100 (2011), One Recluse (2010), Disturbing the Peace (2009) and Fairytale (2007).
Interrogate the interrogator
In 2010, Sharma attended a workshop and fell in love with Weiwei’s works. “He wanted us to stay in touch, and I decided to help popularise his work in India. In China, every interrogation is recorded. Weiwei has a unique counter-recording style, where he turns camera against the surveillance, provoking the police into arguments. He uses the footage to narrate his stories. He is not a dissenter, but attempts to make the system work towards its original purpose,” he explains. Weiwei understood the importance of persistence within art from his father, Ai Qing, who, during the anti-Rightist Movement in 1958, was sentenced to exile to a rural outpost where he had to clean toilets. “Qing was artistic even when he cleaned the toilets,” feels Sharma.
Reflections by Indian artistes
In an adjoining space, artistes Atul Dodiya, Tushar Joag, Justin Ponmany, Riyas Komu, Simon Liddiment, and Nikhil Raunak make similar comments, as they explore their own relationships with the state and how political histories inform their practice through works interspaced between posters of the Cultural Revolution from the Clark House Initiative archive. Dodiya’s paintings trace a similarity between Weiwei and Gandhi, who also used visual clues such as the Dandi March, Khadi and Charkha. “Dodiya recaptures historical identities and shows a different view point — forward-looking and liberal,” says Sharma. Weiwei’s work exhibits a viewpoint that is historic and relates to contemporary times, says Sharma, who believes that India faces similar issues. “We hardly make any effort to know what’s happening in China. This is my attempt to bring together the two countries through art,” he says.
Disturbing the Peace (Lao Ma Ti Hua): is based on the trial of Tan Zuoren, a civil rights advocate who was charged and sentenced to five years of imprisonment for inciting the subversion of state power.
So Sorry: shows tension between Weiwei and the government. Weiwei identifies the students who died during the Sichuan earthquake as a result of corruption and poor building constructions