Jeffry Wasserstrom and Jonathan Campbell in conversation about Pussy Riot, Ai Weiwei, dissent

An interesting interview appears in Los Angeles Review of Books website.

I am particularly impressed by Campbell’s opening point about social responsibility and art:

JONATHAN CAMPBELL: I think that what unites Ai Weiwei, Pussy Riot, and some of China’s most interesting and noteworthy rockers is that socialist legacy of the responsibility of artists to be examples to society, to use their art to make a difference.

This perspective is the type which is missing from many a discussion of Ai Weiwei and other figures who challenge authority in Chinese context. This omission is particularly unfortunate, because in the absence of such a sense of responsibility, what remains, in Ai Weiwei’s case, is something of a political opportunist, one who knows how to work media to advantage of fame (and, though not often acknowledged, fortune). I do believe that Ai rises above that opportunism, but he does so in the context of Chinese cultural assumptions about what an artist (or intellectual) can and should be.

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