During this month's Fourth Fridays celebration, please consider the current circumstances of a brother-in-arts, Ai Weiwei, artist and activist, who was recently arrested and is currently being held by the Chinese government. Ai Weiwei is the brilliant artist who created the Chinese National Olympic Stadium ("Bird's Nest") among many other significant works, and whose creations often entail social commentary and criticism of government corruption, incidences of which he has investigated and exposed in the past. The Chinese government has broken its own laws by holding the artist beyond the legally permissible 30 days without filing formal charges, although vague and often changing allegations ranging from tax evasion to the more general "economic crimes" have been leveled against him. In the past, Ai Weiwei endured searches of his property, as well as police harassment, culminating in an unprovoked attack and beating by police in 2009, which might have caused his death if not for emergency brain surgery he received in Munich, Germany. In January of this year, Chinese authorities demolished his Shanghai studio. On April 3, he was arrested before boarding a flight to Hong Kong and taken to an undisclosed location on the pretext of improper departure procedures. Although his wife was recently permitted to visit him for 20 minutes under close supervision, he is still being held.
Members of the world community have protested his arrest which they regard as punishment for his criticism of China's corrupt and oppressive regime. It's a salute to Ai Weiwei's influence and standing that he is considered a threat by so powerful a government as China's, and it is that government's shame that they persecute one of their most famous and beloved artists. The last time anything close to this kind of thing happening to an artist of this stature was in the 1970s, when John Lennon was hounded and threatened by a paranoid Nixon Administration because of his political activities.
Open and free societies have no reason to fear their artists. Totalitarian governments do, because, in the right hands, art has the ability to illuminate, that is, to hold corruption and oppression up to the light. Simply put, art is power.
Further information about Ai Weiwei's arrest can be found HERE.
Amnesty International's recommended actions can be found HERE.
(Following are links to the four parts of an excellent 52-minute documentary on Ai Weiwei's life and work.)