Just before his arrest, I watched the PBS Frontline documentary about Ai Weiwei and I recommend it as a starting point to learn more about this important artist and inspiring activist. If you missed it, you can watch it a short segment below and the rest on the PBS website which has additional interviews, samples of his Twitter activism, and a slideshow of his art. (The Washington Post and Slate also have good slideshows) A longer version of this documentary, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, by director Alison Klayman is planned for fall release. I expect our Loyal Readers will be eager to see it in full. Klayman was interviewed by ArtInfo after Ai's detention,
The name of your documentary "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry," and it is true, one thing that is striking is how stubborn the guy is. I wonder if you can make a general comment on the mindset that has led him to stick it out through this kind of persecution.
I really think you can describe his activist efforts, and also his artistic efforts, as tireless. I mean, he will be thorough — once he gets into something, he really gets into something. When he gets into Twitter, he is sending sometimes 300 to 500 Tweets a day. When he undergoes injustice personally in Chengdu, when the police beat him, he continues to gather information and return to Chengdu to seek redress from authorities. When the Sichuan earthquake happened and he was so moved by the tragedy, he didn't just write some blog posts about it and say that was that. He found a way to engage people, to put new information out there. He found all those children's names, and continued to post their birthdays for more than a year afterward on Twitter. When you know him a little and you see that dedication, you really understand how genuine his efforts are. Because you always have to remember, he doesn't have to do any of this. I really think that is one of the messages of the film, and its something you can see if you watch the Frontline piece I did that draws on the same material.Another interview by Studio 360 available here.
A few more good links for learning about Ai Weiwei:
Evan Osnos of the New Yorker wrote a fascinating profile of the artist, "It's Not Beautiful: An Artist Takes on the System" last year. You can hear him discuss the detention on NPR's On Point. Or if you need to get straight to the point, read this short piece: "Letter from China: Why Ai Weiwei Matters."
Interesting critic's view of his art.
Ai Weiwei's just-released TED talk:
And for the all-important book reference-- a volume compiling Ai's blogging and twittering has just been released from MIT, Ai Weiwei's Blog: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006-2009. The Economist takes a look.
In a separate post, I'll take a look at what some of our favorite authors are saying about the current crackdown on dissent in China.