This man has been busy. It is increasingly clear that Ai is a one-man force for change in China, a force which is only marginally rooted in contemporary Chinese art.
But as an artist, Ai is certainly adept at metaphor, and the ancient Chinese art of punning. In this case, “river crabs”—河蟹 this is a pun on the word “harmony” 和谐 which is currently the Chinese government touchstone for what society should be: “harmonious.” The ongoing joke for Chinese people, particularly those inclined to political dissent, is that those brave enough to speak out are always in danger of being “harmonized” (against their will).
Ai, who was recently placed under house arrest, this time for proposing to hold a large gathering at the site of his Shanghai studio now slated for destruction, managed to put together a “river crab” party in Shanghai a few weeks back. This video depicts the “harmonious” servings of (rather tasty looking) crabs, and then a crowd of diners chanting “harmonious society.”