In China, this is the face of dissent

Apr 12, 2012, 07:37 IST | Aviva Dharmaraj

Four videos directed by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei will be screened over the next ten days, as part of a project organised by the Clark House Initiative. Here's why the Chinese government is afraid of the artist who won't stop asking, 'Why?'

Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei has been arrested, placed under police surveillance, accused of tax evasion and even had his studio demolished. Arguably, because he went in pursuit of justice. Justice for the loss of over 5,000 lives of children, who died as a consequence of studying in poorly constructed classrooms that collapsed during the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. Justice for Yang Jia, a man from Beijing, who was executed for murdering six Shanghai police officers, four years ago, as a reaction to not having access to proper legal recourse after authorities accused him of riding an unlicensed bicycle. Justice for his people, whose right to free speech is routinely quashed by the Chinese government.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei uses the camera — a tool used to subjugate him by authorities by keeping him under surveillance — as a means to speak out against the very forces that seek to silence him

“I met him one and a half years ago in Korea,” says artist Riyas Komu, adding that the big difference between Weiwei’s work and that of most other artistes lies in the 55-year-old artist’s motivations. “Sometimes, one develops art as a language of expression,” he says, adding, “Ai learned art as a language of survival.”

Arranging Chairs for Ai Weiwei is a ten-day screening of four recent videos directed by the artist. One Recluse is a look at the judicial system in China and is the longest at three hours. The rest are roughly an hour-long, including Disturbing the Peace, which documents an incident during environmentalist Tan Zuoren’s trial, the man who was sentenced to five years imprisonment for “inciting subversion of state power”.

“Ai Weiwei is a very visible figure in the West; this gives him a direct route to an audience,” says artist Simon Liddiment, commenting on why the controversial artist is feared by his government.

The project will include works by Atul Dodiya, Justin Ponmany, Nikhil Raunak, Riyas Komu, Simon Liddiment, Tushar Joag. Posters from the Chinese Cultural Revolution will also be on display.

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