Ai Weiwei / Weiwei-isms

Jan 15, 2013

Princeton

The best way to get to know Ai Weiei’s activism is not through his art, but through his blogging, tweeting, and statements to the media. Now we have a convenient introduction to the artist’s ideas in a small collection of “Weiwei-isms” from Princeton University Press. The collection of pithy aphorisms, quotations, and tweets covers the artist’s well-known responses to the 2008 Olympics, the Sichuan earthquake, and his own persecution by the Chinese government, as well as more general comments on art, freedom of expression, and contemporary China. A few excerpts below:

On Freedom of Expression:
– “Say what you need to say plainly, and then take responsibility for it.”
– “A small act is worth a million thoughts.”
– “Liberty is about our rights to question everything.”

On Art and Activism:
– “Everything is art. Everything is politics.”
– “The art always wins. Anything can happen to me, but the art will stay.”
– “Life is art. Art is life. I never separate it. I don’t feel that much anger. I equally have a lot of joy.”

On Government, Power, and Making Moral Choices:
– “Once you’ve tasted freedom, it stays in your heart and no one can take it. Then, you can be more powerful than a whole country.”
– “I feel powerless all the time, but I regain my energy by making a very small difference that won’t cost me much.”
– “Tips on surviving the regime: Respect yourself and speak for others. Do one small thing every day to prove the existence of justice.”

On the Digital World:
– “Only with the Internet can a peasant I have never met hear my voice and I can learn what’s on his mind. A fairy tale has come true.”
– “The Internet is uncontrollable. And if the Internet is uncontrollable, freedom will win. It’s as simple as that.”
– “The Internet is the best thing that could have happened to China.”

On History, the Historical Moment, and the Future:
– “If a nation cannot face its past, it has no future.”
– “We need to get out of the old language.”
– “The world is a sphere, there is no East or West.”

Personal Reflections:
– “I’ve never planned any part of my career– except being an artist. And I was pushed into that corner because I thought being an artist            was the only way to have a little freedom.”
– “Anyone fighting for freedom does not want to totally lose their freedom.”
– “Expressing oneself is like a drug. I’m so addicted to it.”

Weiwei-isms

Binding: Cloth
ISBN: 9780691157665