Ai Weiwei project censored by authorities in crackdown
Less than 48 hours after Ai Weiwei announced the launch of a ‘Big Brother’ live feed from his home,the cameras have been shut down. Mr Ai placed four cameras in key rooms, replicating the surveillance he endoured while in detention, by the Chinese authorities. The ordeal lasted for 81 days as part of a major government crackdown on dissidents. Following his release, he was given a one-year probation, during which he was not allowed to leave Beijing. Mr Ai launched this webcam project both for his friends and for the Chinese authorities to monitor his everyday activities. This has hammered home a message calling for transparency from all sides.
The cameras, one installed on the ceiling of his bedroom allowed the viewer to watch the artist sleep. He told a BBC interview that he often forgot that the cameras were on and just got on with the everyday tasks of life.The artist told the Guardian newspaper earlier in the week that he had set up the cameras to allay fans’ concerns over his safety and as a gift to public security forces “because they follow me, tap my phone and do what is necessary to get ‘secrets’ from me.”
The past few years has seen some of Ai Weiwei’s most profound works, while continuing to develop his concern for the social and political. To commemorate the 2008 Sichuan earthquake he produced Remembering 2009, a wall of Chinese text that covered the façade of the Haus der Kunst in Munich, made up of thousands of children’s backpacks. The text reads ‘She lived happily for seven years in this world’, a quote from a mother who lost her child in the disaster. Also for the Haus der Kunst, Ai manufactured a carpet to cover 380 square metres of floor space. Entitled Soft Ground 2009, it was painstakingly designed to mimic each of the 969 individual tiles on the floor below, becoming a map of the traces left by 70 years of exhibitions and visitors. The artist has said that “Liberty is about the right to question everything”, and whether visually subtle or spectacular, Ai Weiwei’s large-scale installations are always the result of a constantly enquiring mind and constitute a powerfully thought-provoking body of work.
The Serpentine Gallery recently announced that Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei will create the 2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. It is the first time the firm will reunite with the Chinese dissident artist since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which launched them onto the international stage with the design for the ‘birds nest’ stadium. It is not known whether Mr Ai will attend the installation or opening of the pavilion in June. The artist wrote on his Twitter feed on Wednesday; “bye bye to all the voyeurs.”