Friday, April 15, 2011
Art and Protest
We've been discussing Protest Art of the 1970s in my Mexican art class, and I ran across this recent example just this morning and thought I'd share since the artist involved is one who we've featured on this blog several times before.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, whose 2010 installation Sunflower Seeds was featured on this blog last year, has often used his works for activist purposes, speaking out against censorship, mass consumption, Chinese working conditions, and state oppression. He has already suffered repercussions of creating critical art, including being beaten and having received orders for the destruction of his studio. Now, it seems that Weiwei has been detained by Chinese officials for nearly 2 weeks and is being charged with "economic crimes." Many of those closest to him, including his assistant, his driver, his accountant, and his studio partner, are also missing. The alleged "economic crimes" notwithstanding, many feel that his capture is an example of China's intolerance of alternative voices and dissidents, and see his detainment as an extreme form of censorship.
The international art world has responded to the potential loss of one of their own in a number ways, including installations, street art, petitions, posters, and performances. This article has a long list of how these "guerilla art" tactics are popping up all over.
In class, we've been discussing similar tactics used in Mexico in the 70s to protest a similarly oppressive state and how artists also turned to nontraditional media (non-institutionalized media) as a means of subverting institutionalized (state-sanctioned) crimes. It's also a striking statement of the different conditions in which artists find themselves working. In general, I think these examples are a good indication of the power of images to critique and challenge. Hopefully, in this case, we'll also see the power of an international response that will successfully effect Weiwei's release and safe return. I guess we'll see...