Ai Wei Wei ain’t talking. He stands haggard and hallow on the steps of his Beijing studio after being released from 11 weeks in the Chinese gulag tank. Reporters ask if he’s been mistreated, beaten, if he’s worried about family members who have been imprisoned because of their allegiance to him? There is no answer. No emotion in his face, just a wave and a smile, and fear in his eyes.
“I got the rap patrol on the gat patrol, foes that wanna make sure my casket’s closed…” -Jay-Z
Wei, 56, is the most prominent Chinese artist and outspoken critic of the communist regime. He was arrested April 4th while trying to board a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong. Ai has spoken widely about the “heartlessness” of the Chinese government, seeking reform.
“I don’t know what you take me as, or understand the intelligence that Jay-Z has. I’m from rags to riches… I ain’t dumb…” - Jay-Z
An outspoken critic, Ai Wei Wei was the artistic director of the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium, who later had harsh words for the government’s handling of the games. He was arrested in the western city of Chengdu in 2009 and beaten so badly that he required surgery to have blood drained from his brain.
A year later, he was detained in Beijing attempting to board a flight to South Korea because Chinese authorities feared he would attempt to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony in Oslo for colleague Liu Xia.
“So I… pull over to the side of the road I heard, “Son do you know what I’m stoppin’ you for?” ‘Cause I’m young and I’m black and my hats real low? Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don’t know. Am I under arrest or should I guess some mo’? “Well, you was doin fifty-five in a fifty-fo…”” - Jay-Z
The Chinese government has also prevented Ai from having a solo exhibition at a Beijing gallery this year and demolished his Shanghai studio. In March, Ai announced he would be opening a studio in Berlin to escape restraints on artistic freedom in China. He was arrested a month later.
“And there I go trapped in the kit kat again, back through the system with the riff raff again, fiends on the floor scratchin again, D.A. tried to give … the shaft again, half-a-mill for bail cause I’m African, all because this fool was harrasin’ them, trying to play the boy like he’s saccharin, but ain’t nothing sweet ‘bout how I hold my gun…” - Jay-Z
Ai’s wife, Lu Quig, has also been taken into custody and police have blocked off the streets around his Beijing studio, raided it, and even held certain staffers because they must be in cahoots with this dangerous man.
On a lighter note, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Tour roars into Taipei this weekend. Tickets went on sale this week and sold out in minutes, mostly by my students who worship her. Shoot me, please.