The dissident artist and human right activist Ai Weiwei has criticised British government policy towards nations with tarnished human rights records, reports The Times. Ai was speaking ahead of the launch of his ‘wearable art’ series at London’s Elisabetta Cipriani gallery.
The renowned artist attacked British politicians for compromising their values for ‘short term gains’. “With human rights… (it’s) more like they are talking about pornography or dirty words”, Ai stated to the press.
The artist recently reported that the Danish toy manufacturer Lego has turned down a request by his Beijing studio’s for a large order of the plastic model-making building blocks, on political grounds. The artist posted on Instagram, stating Lego had refused their bulk order in September. The popular company said we “cannot approve the use of Legos for political works.”
Ai is no stranger to human rights issues having been beaten and detained for 81 days by the Chinese authorities and his passport confiscated. In an act of solidarity and support from his fellow artists and architects, Ai was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Arts in May 2011. The series of rectangular prison cells titled S.A.C.R.E.D. currently form an installation at the artist’s retrospective at the Royal Academy of Arts, which allow the viewer to see inside the spaces via prison-door-style slits in the walls and ceilings of recreations of Ai own prison cell reconstructed from memory.
Ai’s activism lead the Chinese authorities to arrest the artist for alleged tax evasion and hold Ai in solitary detention. Once released, the artist decided to reveal the authorities’ methods by recreating the traumatic incarceration in painstaking detail. “I memorised every crack in the ceiling, every mark on the wall. I’m an artist and architect, so I have a good memory for these things.”
Image: Ai Weiwei S.A.C.R.E.D. 2011-2013. Photo: P A Black © 2015