Desecrated Salvation – Ai Weiwei by Jason Collins

Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist who is also known to be an activist. Growing up in exile within the Northwest region of China, Ai has been critical of the Central government that runs China in his work.

Ai has also had altercations with the Chinese police, with one incident ending with him needing emergency surgery for the injuries he sustained from the beating. 

The article below will discuss who Ai is, his artworks, and his activist activities against the Chinese government’s human rights violations. 

Early Life of Ai Weiwei

Ai was born on the 28th of August 1957 in Beijing, China. Ai’s father was a Chinese poet named Ai Qing, who got denounced during the Anti-Rightist Movement that happened between 1957 to 1959.

Because of Ai Qing’s denouncement, his family was sent to a labor camp in Beaidahung, China. These labor camps can be seen as a form of forced slavery where prisoners are working in harsh conditions and have very few human rights.

In 1961 Ai’s family was then exiled to Shihezi, in the Xinjiang area, where they stayed for 16 years. After the death of Mao Zedong in 1974, Ai’s family moved back to Beijing. 

Education and Life In The U.S.A

Ai enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy in 1978, where he studied animation. He also became a founding member of the early art group called Stars with other film students. Even though the group disbanded in 1983, he still performed in the group till 2007 with their exhibition in Beijing called “Origin Point,” The show took place in the Today Art Museum. 

In 1981, Ai moved to the United States, being one of the first Chinese students to do so because of China’s Reform in 1980. He was also part of the first 161 students to take a test known as the “Test of English as a Foreign Language,” Otherwise known as TOEFL. 

Ai studied English at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California and also studied art at Art Students League in New York. 

Chinese Unrest

Ai went back to China in 1993 after his father became ill. While in China, Ai established the Beijing East Village and co-published three different books. In 2011 Ai was arrested for tax evasion and was sentenced to 81 days in jail. 

In 2008, an earthquake hit the Sichuan area, and the Chinese government hid the fact that so many died because of the shoddy construction materials. Ai launched a citizen’s investigation to find out the reason why so many died. 

During the investigation, Ai was beaten so badly by police brutality that he ended up needing surgery. He suffered an internal brain bleed and needed immediate medical attention.

“Template” By Ai Weiwei

Template.” This sculpture was created using Ming and Qing-style doors. These doors were originally from the homes of ancient Chinese buildings that were torn down or broken down naturally. 

The message behind the art can be seen as China’s act of destroying its rich culture and heritage when the Chinese leaders wanted to modernize the country by their ideals only. This led to a cultural revolution in the 80s.  

Mao Zedong told the Chinese citizens to destroy and leave their cultural heritage, and the sculpture shows it. The sculpture is not maintained by weather or anything, so it is slowly falling apart, just like the old civilization of the Chinese People. 

If you want to learn more about Ai’s life, you can find his books here

Jason Collins is a freelance writer, epicure, and lover of all things human expression. While he has not had the opportunity to go to the Louvre in-person he has taken more virtual tours than he would care to remember or mention. When he is not out getting lost somewhere in the desert of Nevada he spends most of his time with his two beagles Max and Sherry.

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