Ai Weiwei Speaks Out From Beijing: CBC Feature Interview

Ai Weiwei risks his personal security and future to speak out to the CBC about human
rights abuses in China and the conditions surrounding his current house arrest in Beijing.
image courtesy of
It has been nearly one year since Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei was arrested in China after a series of escalating episodes that resulted in the contemporary artist's 81 day detainment and silencing by the Beijing authority. Currently under house arrest and under close scrutiny by the local police who track his every move, it has become nearly impossible for Ai to operate in the same capacity that saw his rise in prominence and importance within the global art community. Significantly, he has been forbidden from utilizing social media and speaking with foreign journalists-- activities he has continued to undertake as a way of keeping in communication with supporters beyond China. He has also been savvy in keeping up with his art practice (see my recent blog post here), finding ways to collaborate and maintain his active presence in the world of contemporary art.

In his first major North American interview since his detainment, Ai Weiwei takes on a considerable risk to himself and his family to discuss his situation and keep the conversation going about human rights abuses in China today. In the CBC interview with the art and culture program Q, he discusses the difficulties he has faced both mentally and physically during his long detainment, the question of whether he sees any aspect of his current condition as a form of performance art, and his decision to continue residing in China even after his current situation is resolved. He also warns Western politicians about the short-sighted approach and "bad message" that is sent to the Chinese authority by ignoring human rights abuses while continuing to build economic ties with China. He singles out Canada for this violation and persuasively speaks about the mixed message that is received in Chinese society with respect to the need for social change when so much is ignored by the West when it comes to the internal conditions in the country. Sadly, Ai does not believe that power will shift any time soon within China, but he does believe that external pressure and the consciousness raising through the conditions of his arrest will help others come to recognize the true face of the current Beijing authority. In terms of art's power to affect social change, Ai maintains that it is through collective efforts and "ordinary people's passion" that such transformation is possible.