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China: Everybody Can Become Ai Weiwei

Good times for those still trying to explain the irrelevance within Chinese society of all the people detained, arrested or disappeared since late February. Chinese Internet services continue to block essentially any mention of these names, and Ai Weiwei‘s situation remains unreported by Mainland Chinese media.

Even Hung Huang, writing simply of Ai Weiwei, “Still no news.”, appears to have had that update censored from her Weibo account this week. A search on Weibo for Ai's name brings back only the message that:

根据相关法律法规和政策,搜索结果未予显示。

In accordance with the relevant laws, regulations and policies, the search results have not been displayed.

For more about what little is being said in public about Ai Weiwei's arrest, see GVO writer Andy Yee's post here. Off Twitter, amid the relative silence among politically active ‘netizens’ as their peers and opinion leaders have disappeared, one of the few public statements in recent days came earlier this week from Guangzhou-based academic, writer, feminist and filmmaker Ai Xiaoming, with her post on Canyu.org, ‘Today, everybody can become Ai Weiwei’:

艾未未昨天在北京机场被带走,此后失去消息,其工作室和家人住处都被查抄,抄走三十多台电脑等。到今天晚上9点,世界各大主要媒体都报道了这个消息,不奇怪,中国的主流媒体当然没有报道。

很多推友在推特上呼吁释放艾未未,签名正在进行时http://twitition.com/ao9m7,艾未未的研究网站也在运行中http://aiwwstudy.appspot.com/,昨天到今天36个小时过去了,依然没有看到新的消息。

Ai Weiwei was taken away yesterday at the Beijing Airport, and nothing has been heard since. His workspace and home have both been ransacked, and 30 computers were among the things seized. As of 9 pm today, media from all around the world have reported this news, but, predictably, Chinese mainstream media of course haven't written about it.

Many Twitter users are calling for Ai Weiwei to be released, and a petition is underway here, and a website to learn more about Ai Weiwei has been set up here. Yesterday marked 36 hours since he was detained, but still there is no new information.

In addition to Twitter reactions seen in Andy Yee's post, Ai Xiaoming has also collected these:

五岳散人:靠恐怖与失踪来消除异议、统治国家,第一不能算是盛世,因为没有一个盛世是在刺刀与警棍中实现的;第二是不可长久,多少个前车之鉴已经证明了这点,以后还会接着证明。

Wuyue Sanren: Relying on fear and disappearances to eliminate dissent and rule the country means, number one, that this is no golden age. A golden age does not take place among daggers and police batons; number two, it won't last long, there are many lessons we've learned which are testament to this much, and this still has yet to be proven again.

翟明磊:做为研究公民社会的学人,艾未未是我见过的最优秀的大公民,查访死亡学生名单,纪录杨佳案,仗仗漂亮,这样的人应当请到主席台上替换那些人模狗样的道德标兵,而不是关在囚车里。——当然老艾会在主席台上翻跟头树中指的。

Zhai Minglei: As a scholar who researches civil society, Ai Weiwei is one of the more outstanding citizens that I've ever seen, from his investigation into the list of names of earthquake casualties to his work on the Yang Jia case, fighting the beautiful fight, the kind of person who shouldn't now be locked up, but instead ought to be up on the chairman pulpit in place of those who only pretend to have any sort of moral authority. Of course, if Old Ai were to go sit in the chairman seat, he'd just flip everybody the middle finger.

浦志强:杨佳案他呼吁公正,川震人祸他推动调查,老谭入狱他作证遭袭,艳萍被抓他回马枪搭救,艺术家遭拆他冲上长街,胶州路大火他走访真相,钱云会惨死他直面媒体人。这世道有他没啥不同,没他却大大不同。赶明儿他出来,我还得面对这胖脸,所以我无法沉默。

Pu Zhiqiang: In the Yang Jia case, he called for justice. In the manmade disaster following the Sichuan earthquake, he launched an investigation. When Old Tan got put away, he went to bear witness and instead got attacked; when his assistant Liu Yanping was being held, he immediately turned around and went back to save her; when artists faced having their studios demolished, he went straight to Chang'an Avenue; in the wake of the Jiaozhou fire, he went to seek out the truth; after Qian Yunhui‘s tragic death, he spoke directly with the media. The world's not much difference only because of him, but without him, it becomes much, much different. He'll get out sooner or later, but I still want to see that chubby face of his again, which is why I can't stay silent.

Looking at how Ai Weiwei's art has come to overlap with his activism, particularly since last year, Ai Xiaoming continues:

艾未未创造的经验,一个是对待冲突的态度。因为过去我们拍,会觉得在冲突中只能偷拍,因为你没有能力和警察冲突。但是艾未未他们创造了一种直接冲突的经验,并且能够以技术手段转败为胜。因此,他非常有力地强化了公民拍摄的合法性,就是我有权拍摄,我有权监督。他呈现了在公权力面前,拍摄者应该有什么样的位置。过去这个位置是不被强调的,因为我们觉得拍摄者很弱小,随时会被击碎,所以是避让的。但是艾未未他创造了这样一种姿态,他一下子突破了一大步。这个突破不光是影像内容上的突破,很重要的是:一个拍摄者站起来了。这就是说,拍摄者不要跑,拍摄者站起来这个态度、这个姿态,非常有启发性。站起来,不退让,拍到底,对拍。这是一个突破。

Of the experiences created by Ai Weiwei, one example is his attitude toward conflict. In the past, when we encountered conflicts, we felt we could only film them covertly, because we have no power in conflicts with police. But Ai Weiwei and his group, they showed us their experience of engaging police in direct conflict, and how to use technology to gain the upper hand. Because of this, Ai has managed to greatly legitimize the act of citizen filming, showing people that they have the right to film and record, as well as the right to scrutinize. He emerged to show public authorities just what kind of status those doing filming should have. In the past, emphasis wasn't placed on establishing such a status, because we all felt that people filming events were in a position of weakness, to be crushed at any time, and so we avoided it. When Ai Weiwei gave credence to this view, it was a giant breakthrough for him. A breakthrough not only in regard to the content of his films, but also quite important was that someone with a camera had stood up. In other words, he showed us that anyone with a camera doesn't have to run off, and this stance, that people with cameras can stand up, was hugely illuminating. Stand up, don't back off, keep on filming, filming each other. This was a breakthrough.

再一个,艾未未他们做到了及时拍,及时上传。这也是他的一个理念:速度很重要,做事的效果跟速度有关联。所以他及时拍,立即传。还有一个经验是,就是他运作了一个团队。这个团队当它彼此一起工作的时候,它的力量、团队协作,是个人拍摄不可取代的。

Another was that Ai Weiwei and company were quick to start filming, and quick to get it online. This is another idea he promotes: speed is important, and the impact of something is related to the speed at which you do it. Which is why he finishes shooting quickly, and uploads immediately. Another experience is in how he manages his team. When it works together, the strength this team has had, one person shooting alone is no substitute for their team coordination.

[…]

今天我在推特上发了两段话:艾未未被抓走,也许几天后会回来,也许几年也不回来。而他身后的观众,可能有几十万。其中,80后90后是大多数。潜在的、他的同龄人还有很多。艾未未留下了他的观众,这个观众群里有无数人会继续艾未未的理想和实践。在这个意义上,艾未未不战而胜。

I wrote a bit today on Twitter: Ai Weiwei has been detained, and he might not come back within the next few days, or possibly even the next few years. But behind him stands an audience possibly in the hundreds of thousands. The majority of those were born in the 1980s and 1990s. Potentially, many of them are also his age. In this audience which Ai Weiwei has left behind, there are countless more people who will continue and seek to realize his ideals. In this sense, Ai Weiwei wins by default.

有关艾未未不战而胜,我既不是指他不会吃苦头,也不是指他没有受损失。而是说,在挑战强权的方式上,艾未未有他的奇思异想。他不光是勇毅过人,而且精灵鬼马,妙趣横生。这是中国多么稀缺的人格,是年轻人多么向往的个性。

When I say he wins by default, I don't mean that he won't have to suffer, or that he doesn't stand to lose anything. Rather, I'm saying that with his approach to challenging power, Ai Weiwei incorporates his own unique vision. He's not just extraordinarily brave, but has a razor-sharp sense of humor, both funny and witty. This is the kind of person that China so lacks, and the kind of personality to which young people are so drawn.

[…]

中国不能回到任意抄家、遍布文字狱的红色恐怖之中,但抄家抱电脑的事情已经十分普遍。有人说,你再张嘴,下一个失踪者就是你!对此,我姑且引用推特上所传艾未未一段话来说明:“我怕的要命,不是无所畏惧,或许比其他人更要害怕。我之所以勇敢,是因为我知道危险就在那里,如果我不采取行动,危险会越来越强大。”请注意,我说的是“姑且”,它的另一层意思是:你真相信他怕吗?你看那“敏感地带”上的《中国男人》,谁不是脱下裤子,跃跃欲试,向着自由裸奔。

所以我还发了另一条推文:

今天推特上看不到艾未未,今天,人人都可以成为艾未未。如果你喜欢他,你就像他那样去生活,像他那样去爱亲人,爱朋友,爱孩子,爱小猫小狗,爱那些受苦的人并且为他们说话。无数个你成为了艾未未,中国就不必是马勒隔壁大草原了,你这位草泥马太祖可以骄傲地看到,你的后代进化成人——幸福的中国人。

China won't see a return of the red terror of arbitrary home ransacking and pervasive literary persecution, however incidents of home searches and confiscating computers are now quite common. Someone said, if you open your mouth again, the next one to disappear will be you! To that, I might quote one saying from Ai Weiwei making its way around Twitter: “I'm very afraid, I'm not fearless. I might even be more scared than others. The reason I'm brave, though, is because I know what the danger is, and that if I don't take action, that danger will only grow stronger.” Please note that I said “might”, the implication being: do you really believe that he's afraid? If you look at the “Chinese Man” piece in Sensitive Parts [an art exhibition held in Beijing last month which saw four artists arrested], who wouldn't want to whip off their pants and give it a go, streaking toward freedom.

Which is why I also tweeted that:

Today we don't see Ai Weiwei on Twitter; Today, everyone can become Ai Weiwei. If you like him, then live like him, and love like him. Love your friends, the children, every cat and dog. Love the people under torment, and speak for them. Countless numbers of you will become Ai Weiwei. China doesn't need to be a barren desert full of crabs. As descendants of the grass mud horse, you can see and be proud, knowing that your offspring will evolve into humans—into happy Chinese people.


“Missing persons: Ai Weiwei”, a stickeraction from Chinese Wikipedian Shizhao's blog.

  • I am wondering, how many students who come to USA from China are Prodemocracy? Many students i have worked with have been told that tankman and tiennenman square are myths.

  • Lucia

    Those students should be referred to New York Times journalist Nick Kristof, who covered the Tianannmen square events.

  • Pingback: China: Everybody Can Become Ai Weiwei « M. Ulric Killion's space()

  • god lover

    Here’s a comment that I got from someone who was in Beijing during the Tiananmen Massacre.

    “For an entire year after Tiananmen, there were five or more broadcasts per day from the state controlled media about how students tried to forcefully overthrow the government in a violent revolution in Tiananmen Square. The news reports were that the government successfully prevented this coup attempt and the people of China should be very grateful for the government for preventing such lawlessness and chaos. The event is not taught in schools . . . most of my graduate students are not even aware of it as they were too young and too far away at the time to follow the news.”

    “Remember, Beijing, while a large city, is a very small part of the country of China at large. Most people in the country didn’t have a clue what was happening at that time. And yet, the entire country, from small 10-family villages with radios to large cities were subjected to the same news reports, day after day after day.”

    “In 1990, I heard these same broadcasts as I traipsed through small villages in Yunnan Province. I was sooooo tired of hearing those broadcasts! At some point, I remember thinking that I understood how brainwashing worked . . . it takes too much energy to fight against it after a while. While I never believed the broadcasts . . . after all, I knew the truth and saw the students, troops, etc., I was mentally fatigued of the strain it took to translate everything and dispute it, even in my own mind.”

    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110416105610AAlra1s

  • Pingback: Italy: Initiative in Support of Ai Weiwei · Global Voices()

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