Bird’s Nest designer comes out against the Games!

August 14th, 2007

I arrived in New York yesterday morning. My adventures in Beijing have come to an end, but people have convinced me that this blog should continue. I’m overwhelmed by the interest many have shown in hearing my thoughts about the upcoming Olympics. So I’m honored and happy to keep at it.

Above: Ai Wei Wei flips Mao the bird at Tiananmen Square.

And there’s no shortage of information to share and talk about. The most amazing development since my last post is that Ai Wei Wei, one of China’s most celebrated artists and the designer of the Bird’s Nest, has come out against Beijing’s Olympics. In this unbelievably damning report from Al Jazeera posted on YouTube, Ai Wei Wei says that the Olympics don’t represent the true face of China and he wants nothing more to do with them anymore.

I guess it’s not suprising that Ai Wei Wei has spoken out. Not only is he a brilliant independent artist, but he grew up watching his father - the famous modern Chinese poet, Ai Qin - and family suffering in a labor camp in East Turkestan (Xinjiang) after his father was exiled there during the Anti-Rightist Movement under Mao.

In “Olympic artist attacks China’s pomp and propaganda” by Jonathan Watts of The Guardian, Ai also attacks Steven Spielberg and the other directors involved in the opening and closing ceremonies:

“All the shitty directors in the world are involved. It’s disgusting,” said Ai. “I don’t like anyone who shamelessly abuses their profession, who makes no moral judgment. It is mindless.”

I admire Ai for his courage and not just for speaking out but for being so direct and harsh in his criticism. I wonder what the authorities will do to him now? Will they leave him be because of the Olympics spotlight? Or will they just wait until the Games are over and then go after him? Apparently, Ai doesn’t care:

Ai dismissed concerns about repercussions from expressing his views, adding: “It is not opposition to the state, but rather in fighting for individualism and freedom of expression, freedom of human rights and justice … If you read newspapers today you see the problems created by this structure and by the effort to maintain power. It is against everything that human society should be fighting for.”

Finally, someone taking a stand on the right side of history. Go Ai!

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