Born in Pekin in 1957, Ai Wei Wei might be the most famous Chinese dissident of our times. After twelve years spent in the USA, mostly in New York, where he used to carry with him a camera all the time to photograph the world and the avant-gardist wave he was surrounded by, he came back to China in 1993. For almost five years, the artist, who is vocal in his criticism against the Chinese Communist Party, had been confined to his Beijing home and denied his passport which he just retrieved in July 2015. The Chinese authorities had charged him for tax evasion, an accusation which Ai Wei Wei considered to be iniquitous and with the sole purpose to silence him.
Visual and plastic artist, photograph, architect as well as activist, Ai Wei Wei uses new media as a source of inspiration but also as a material for his works. Wood, steel, urban waste, marble or ceramics are also part of his creative process. Very active on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/aiww/) Ai Wei Wei denounces, decries, criticizes, discloses and touches everything and everyone: lack of transparency, corruption, censorship, totalitarianism, imprisonment as well as climatic disasters or economical inequalities.
In London, from the 19th of September to the 13th of December, Ai Wei Wei took over the Royal Academy of Arts’ main gallery. Hanging on the walls, two large panels were listing the names of 4,851 children killed in May 2008, in an earthquake in Sichuan, China: a list that Chinese authorities had been covering up. Another work, “Straight”, is a collection he made from 150 tons of steel- reinforcing bars, coming from destroyed state schools, that had been distorted during the earthquake and that he reshaped. A marbled surveillance camera was also exhibited, such as the one Chinese authorities had installed in front of his studio.
Fighting for human rights and, above all, freedom of expression, rooting his art in his own experience, Ai Wei Wei is one of those who fully embrace the contemporary stakes of ours. His outspokenness should be taken as a chance, the opportunity to echo serious and universal issues.