Artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Image: initials-la.com Artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Image: initials-la.com

"Today, they started to demolish my studio “zuo you” in Beijing with no precaution .which I have as my main studio since 2006.it is a East German style socialist factory building.farewell." This is how artist and activist Ai Weiwei announced the sudden attack from the Chinese government on his Instagram page this week.

The artist moved to Berlin after his release in 2011, after facing 4 years of house arrest and 3 months of imprisonment. Weiwei asserts he were asked to vacate the space before a certain date that had yet to pass, therefore the invasion came as a complete surprise.

Ai Weiwei with his son. Image: Instagram @aiww Ai Weiwei with his son. Image: Instagram @aiww

Ai has worked in the studio since 2006, and the sudden demolition lead to many works being destroyed. Still, the Chinese artist choose to see the events from a larger perspective.

‘Works were damaged due to the unannounced attack on the studio. There was no caution taken. However, compared to the memories which have been lost, compared to a society which has never established trust in the social order, a trust in the rule of law, or a trust in any kind of unity in defending the rights of its people, what has been lost at my studio is insignificant, and I don't even care. There are profoundly deeper and wider ruins in this deteriorating society where the human condition has never been respected’

Law of the Journey (Prototype B), 2016, created in the Beijing studio. Image: Instagram @aiww Law of the Journey (Prototype B), 2016, created in the Beijing studio. Image: Instagram @aiww

Ai Weiwei maintains his critique of pervasive corruption in the Chinese government. But his relationship with the current government went from bad to worse in 2009, a year after he created the ‘Bird Nest’ arena for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

After a massive earthquake in the Sichuan province, Ai Weiwei’s voice as an activist became even more prolific. During the quake, thousands of children were buried alive after the collapse of a number of building. Ai Weiwei utilized his position of prominence as an advocate for the victims, and created several works in their honour. His critique of China’s government has since then grown, targeting everything from human rights to corruption.

As a response, the government has worked even harder to silence Ai Weiwei. The destruction of his Shanghai studio in 2010, and his incarceration in 2011, are only two examples.

Yu Yi, 2015. Created in the Beijing studio. Image: Instagram @aiww Yu Yi, 2015. Created in the Beijing studio. Image: Instagram @aiww

Ai Weiwei is not alone in facing the aftermath of the demolition, and there have been a number of similar projects in the area. The chinese authorities insist they are the result of greater development - gentrification says Ai Weiwei.

"Demolishing existing buildings for new development, or for whatever reason, happens in every city. However, since last year, a policy was enacted to clear out migrant workers from Beijing. It is gentrification, but this is also a society which exploits the rights of its migrant workers. They have never had any security in their lives in terms of property or legal support. They are dependent on the clear laws which should protect their basic human rights. They live in a society where they have no opportunity to freely discuss in the media any matter related to these issues. This is not simply the demolition of a studio, but rather the demolition of human rights.

Straight, 2008-2012. Created in the Beijing studio. Image: Instagram @aiww Straight, 2008-2012. Created in the Beijing studio. Image: Instagram @aiww

The misconception that what happened here is a singular instance affecting only his studio is not true. Many migrant worker’s homes have also been destroyed, often in the middle of the night without any notice. Authorities have been known to throw people from their homes and destroy their personal belongings, leaving them on the streets or having them arrested for resisting eviction. The issue continues to persist to this day.

The demolition started this Friday, 4th August. Image: rfa.org The demolition started this Friday, 4th August. Image: rfa.org

Without an  independent judicial system and no independent media so these people do not have a voice. I consider myself lucky. I can still have my voice heard. My image can still appear on the internet and I can still make public my struggle. However, my argument is not about myself or my studio. It's a nice studio and I have used it for the last twelve years to produce large artworks. But beyond that, this situation reflects the reality that even those with certain privilege are also seen as irrelevant. They will not consider granting even a few days more to move out."

His studio is not the only art space to vanish in recent times. Many galleries in Caochangdi, an art district developed by Ai Weiwei, have been destroyed to make way for this so called development project.

Ai Weiwei. Image: metalocus.es Ai Weiwei. Image: metalocus.es

"Free speech and free expression have simply never existed in China or in its artist communities," Ai tells NPR. "Those who do not belong to the establishment, including artists, are always the first to be discriminated against and sacrificed. Often, the authorities face no consequences in doing so."

Read more here

 

Tags

Comment