Ai Weiwei documentary appearing in theaters world-wide, and garnering much positive response for his work, and Alison Klayman’s.
What continues to surprise me in the unfolding of Ai’s work is the degree to which a more subtle understanding of contemporary China remains ever elusive to most media outlets, even very good ones. The principal blind-spot (for Chinese 盲点 ) for most journalistic authors is the notion that Chinese “authorities” are monolithic, such that Ai can have an ongoing struggle with “them.” The varieties of “authority” in China are many, and Ai does indeed engage regularly in poking them respectively in their eyes, stamping on their toes, and giving occasional wedgies. For this he has paid imprisonment, and now faces massive financial loss. That loss, however, should ever be understood in context of what he gains in global profile.
Another rather curious point about the LA Times article in particular is mention of “first major exhibition.” I suppose key word here is “major”, though 12 massive bronze heads traveling installed in New York City seems to me to have its “major” dimensions to it. In any event, the upcoming exhibition will hopefully occasion more subtle reading of Ai’s work.
Meantime, I will finally be able to see the documentary in Seattle this week. Hopefully some interesting conversation will be generated at the event itself, about which I can offer some report.