Ai Weiwei, the famed Chinese dissident artist will speak at the International Literature Festival Berlin, in a panel discussion with fellow Chinese dissident and poet Liao Yiwu. The conversation will be moderated by the prominent German journalist and writer Wolfgang Herles. The event will taking place on 2 September in Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall, and marks the first time that Ai will make a public speech since his 81 day detention in 2011.
The artist has been a frequent critic of the Chinese government’s policies. Ai’s acclaimed work often explores the limits placed on the right of people in China to express themselves, as well as his personal experience of incarceration. His activities and work frequently deal with sensitive issues that the Chinese government would prefer were not raised.
In 2010, Ai Weiwei was briefly detained and severely beaten by security officials just before he was due to testify for the defence during the trial of Tan Zuoren, an environmental activist who, along with Ai, had documented the names of thousands of children who died during the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
The two creatives and political activists are expected to talk about contemporary art, literature, and their relationship with Chinese authorities. The Chinese state imprisoned Liao Yiwu for four years in 1989. The poet went on to become one of the best known Chinese authors in the west; famous for seminal works such as Interviews with People from the Bottom Rung of Society (2002), and Miss Hello and the Emperor Farmer (2009).
Organisers said that the two superstars of Chinese culture will participate in a book-signing in the foyer of Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall after the symposium. The Chinese government unexpectedly returned the artist’s passport in July, allowing him to leave the country for the first time in four years. He is expected to take up a guest professorship at Berlin’s University of the Arts. Ai Weiwei and Liao Yiwu currently both live in Berlin.