Dissident artist Ai Weiwei is planning to remotely direct a short film via Skype, although still living without a passport in China, following years of repression by his country’s government, but proving once again that Ai’s is still very much a global artist regardless of the attempted suppression of his creativity.
The new work will be created during Berlin’s current film festival, as part of the portmanteau movie ‘Berlin, I Love You’. Producer Claus Clausen will take the directorial responsibilities on location, taking his cue via Skype from the artist. “The shooting will be filmed and screened in real time on big monitors in Berlin on Potsdamer Platz and in Beijing on a little screen in Ai’s studio, he sees a wide shot of the set,” Clausen explained. “This is a project that exemplifies the belief that love can overcome obstacles.”
Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, the artist has stated that the film will focus on his six-year-old son, Ai Lao. “The film is about my son. He’s been living in Berlin since August, and I cannot visit him,” he said. The film’s script is by Lao’s mother, documentary film-maker Wang Fen, and German actor Til Schweiger will also take part in the vignette.
On 3 April 2011, the artist was arrested at Beijing Capital International Airport, and his studio facilities were searched. A police contingent of approximately 50 officers came to his studio, threw a cordon around it and searched the premises. Ai is prohibited from leaving China following that arrest without charge, but the artist has become adept at working remotely.
The artist co-ordinated his installation @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz prison, in San Francisco, and the creation of a Serpentine pavilion in London with Herzog and de Meuron, both via Skype. The Blenheim Art Foundation presented the artist in the first contemporary art exhibition in the rooms and gardens of the 18th century Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire – the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill – with more than 50 artworks by the celebrated Chinese artist and social activist, also organised remotely. Ai’s next UK show is a major exhibition at the Royal Academy in the autumn.
‘Berlin, I Love You’ is part of a series of ensemble movies that feature various overtures to a different world city – it follows Paris, Je T’aime; New York, I Love You; and Rio, Eu Te Amo. The short film will also be accompanied by a documentary of its making.