Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ai Weiwei offered top Communist Party job two days before arrested

"Post-It," wall-writing and lights, Alessandro Rolandi, Beijing (2011)

"They cannot let anything happen if they don´t understand it." -- Ai Weiwei, BBC 6 Nov. 2010 interview while under house arrest.

Disappeared Chinese artist Ai Weiwei turned down a top Communist Party job two days before he was arrested on 3 April, according to reliable sources in Beijing.

While the story cannot be confirmed, it makes sense.

The government couldn´t buy him, so they banned him.

Maine´s Gov. Paul LePage in March banned the art, not the artist.

After all, he faced an obstacle the Chinese don´t have: The United States Constitution.

LePage in March banned a mural, paid for by federal funds, showing the history of the labor movement because it didn´t please an anonymous Tea Party enthusiast, insufficiently "business friendly."

The autocratic LePage reacted like the Communist Central Committee in Beijing.

He ordered the 33-foot, 11-panels of mural removed in the dead of night. LePage, on his order alone, made it disappear.

Artist Judy Taylor did not. She´s doing quite well, better we think than before the ban, since no doubt her work, now contraband, should sell at much higher prices.

Fear of ´Jasmine Revolution" Misplaced

China´s current chill, however, continues. The state security organs flex their  political muscles at will, and ironically are now stronger thanks to the Beijing Olympics.

“Of course, disappearing is awful and China still provides this unique thrill,” Beijing-based artist and lecturer Alessandro Rolandi told ArtTraveler .

Alessandro Rolandi

These and associated Chinese paranoid-schizophrenic political spasms reflect a government understandably fearful of a Twitter uprising similar to Egypt´s or Tunisia´s.

Autocratic regimes recoil with fear, especially China with its 1979 debacle, still sensitive scar tissue.

China´s response spirals into paranoia and reactionary misconduct.

There´s no evidence Weiwei sought a Twitter-inspired “Jasmine Revolution.”
Chinese authorities over-reacted.

It´s simply what they do under their schizoid scheme of permissive capitalism, encouraging wanton western ways while smashing dissent, using any pretext to preserve the vertical order in a horizontal society.

When do opposites become each other?

Some things you must accept as unexplainable, says ArtTraveler´s Beijing contributor Rolandi, who has lived and worked in Beijing since 2003.

In his exclusive report to Art Traveler, he said: 

“Opposites not only touch each other, they eventually become each other.

“So far, you might be the only journalist and perhaps the only voice who has grasped this. Just explain it, describe it without pretense, because there is no explanation, and the reality is just complex and unfathomable.” 

Even though Chinese authorities appear hyper-vigilant, it´s not art but dissent they´re aiming to quell.

On 17 and 18 April, Rolandi and Ambra Corinti, owner of a downtown Beijing gallery, Za Jai Art Space, located in a former Taoist temple, concurrently celebrated twin birthdays and a new avant-garde exhibition, despite what Rolandi called “tension and confusion here.”

Za Jai Art Space is located next to a police station and a military unit.

For the Zia Jia show, Rolandi created a wall-writing and lights work, which he titled, “Post-It.”

It was a real fiesta: “We had an amazing roast lamb, cooked in the street and many people…and then, police came and said that too many people and a fire was not safe, so watch out, barbeque people!”

A vigilant, paranoid and autocratic state is always watching. (Photo by Stefan van Drake 2011)
“We´ll see if things go smoothly,” Rolandi said.

Rolandi cautioned that westerners too often rely on clichés when viewing the Chinese people. 

Rolandi doesn´t see himself as an “arts activist.”

“I´m too lazy for that and too much a loner. I´m a waldganger, an outsider who uses art as an insight instrument for education and social criticism.”

“For me, artists or thinkers should help people to open their minds, not to find a target for complaint,” Rolandi said.

The state´s message is clear: "Be Have!"

“A temptation is not necessarily an opportunity. If somebody decides to go against the wall because he somehow can, at least for awhile, it does not mean that for everybody else, going against the wall is a good idea,” he added.

“I find the idea of reading today´s China with the criteria we used for communism as it was perceived after WW II a big mistake.

“China and the United States, while very different from each other, share a sinister, corporate-fascist image in which the type of control and propaganda are different.

“Yet both countries could end up having similar outcomes in terms of censorship, economic priorities and practical effects on people´s lives in all fields, especially freedom of expression.”

Rolandi believes China has yet to master the art of soft power.

Asian democracies, even South Korea, he opined, retain a sort of military education matrix, very strict traditional social systems…"society works from a kind of military blue-print.”

Ignore the labels; examine the facts and their sources as well as how we see other cultures through our own prisms.

Rolandi criticized western media´s misplaced emphasis:

“The media in the west function like a whole series of mirrors reflecting thousands of images like a kaleidoscope.

“This not conceptually different from what China does with all its face and appearances and deceptions: It is a game of face, faceda, mirrors, reflections.

“The situation is different, the operational procedures differ but the goals and outcomes…are they different?” Rolandi asked.

Meanwhile, the western press and others decry Ai Weiwei´s disappearance and detention. 

Amnesty International loudly protested.  

The German government, which sponsors “The Art of the Enlightenment,” is not thrilled about developments.

Enlightenment opened 1 April in the Chinese National Museum, Beijing. The show´s organizers reported dismal numbers, about 200 - 300 viewers daily.

Some German arts functionaries wanted to pull the show to protest Weiwei´s detention. 

German officials wisely rejected this, noting boycots do not work. Such action would hurt the Chinese people not their government.

Gone, the art of enlightenment--soft power

Artists in Bangkok organized a “Celebration of Freedom & Artistic Expression"  18 – 20 March, protesting imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo, who signed “Charter 08 Manifesto.”

Until May 2, Tate Modern in London hosts Weiwei´s “Sunflower Seeds Unilever Series” installation in its Turbine Hall.

So far, more than 75,000 people have protested on Weiwei´s Twitter account, demanding he be released immediately.

An online call for Sunday (17 April) protests in major Chinese cities triggered widespread arrests, especially among members of the Shouwang Church for unlawful assembly, according to online news reports.

Alessandro Rolandi, age 41, is artist in residence at Harrow International School, Beijing since 2003, teaching art and experimental theatre. He has taught or lectured in eight schools, including Institut d´Edudes de Paris. He is also a film maker, actor, theatre director and author. Rolandi, born in Pavia, Italy, has staged 12 solo exhibitions and participated in 24 group shows.
His mission:

"I observe, borrow, change and document reality to create possibilities that challenge our current socio-political structures and point out the effects they have on our daily life and on our scheme of thought."

Rock on and practice peace and love.
Stefan, the ArtTraveler™ 

Alessandro Rolandi´s wall-writing and lights "Post-It," the mirrored image from the state: "Be Have!"
Check out a sculpture or mosaics workshop or walking tour in our beautiful mountains. See: www.spanjeanders.nl and www.competafinearts.com.

"Sierra Sky," photograph by Stefan van Drake (2009)

Contact me at stefanvandrake@gmail.com or by calling (34) 951 067 703; from the UK at BT landline rates, 0844 774 8349.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm I got lost a bit in the article when you combined Judy Taylor's work being taken down, I thought Ai WeiWei somehow was doing mural work in the US.

    I looked at the pictures of the Mural. It is a wonderful piece and you are right, her work will be more valuable just like WeiWei's work.