Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei was arrested last April, detained without charges but eventually accused of tax evasion. Despite worldwide protest Chinese authorities held him for months. Even now he is now under a kind of “parole” or house arrest, having to report to his local police station two or three times a week and prohibited from talking to foreign media. Nevertheless, he has done several interviews, including this one broadcast on March 22nd by CBC radio.
A sombre Ai Wei Wei spoke to Jian Ghomeshi about his arrest, his life now, its impact on his work and on the role of art in effecting political change. His resolve has clearly not softened though he spoke of being “broken” during his imprisonment when he was held in an unknown location with no access to family or friends.
We are grateful to CBC radio for connecting us so directly to the man behind the headlines and behind his enormous international reputation.
We also laud CBC for its increasing coverage of the visual arts. The visual arts remain one of the most poorly understood of the arts disciplines. But progress is being made. Whereas not so long ago the pubic idea of art was limited to the historical pictures of a few famous artists in famous museums, today the public is much more aware of contemporary art. Internationally, some artists have achieved notoriety or celebrity while nationally, public art programs situate contemporary work right in local neighbourhoods where they cannot be ignored.
There’s still much room for improvement. For example, we heard at the Kingston Colloquium, that although the public is often aware of particular public artworks or works in their local galleries, they often don’t know the names of the artists who created the work. We do too poor a job associating the artist as a person with the work they produce. It’s not about creating celebrities exactly (though that wouldn’t hurt obviously), but about connecting the public to the artist as a person, a fully functioning member of society, doing legitimate work.
Check out Q’s program lineup here: http://www.cbc.ca/q/
Listen to the full interview here: http://www.cbc.ca/q/uncut/
[cross posted to the Visual Arts Alliance webstie]