Suddeutscher Zeitung today published an article about Ai Weiwei’s surgery in Munich, along with some new photographs where Ai Weiwei ponders his own blood. Yesterday one reader called such photos pretentious, but what else can be expected from a performance artist like Ai Weiwei? For Ai, it appears, being exposed to his own blood raises the level of authenticity, self-awareness, and ideas (already well established for a European audience) of the artist as a kind of martyr for self-expression and human rights in China. Besides, when you’re an exhibitionist competing with Cai Guo-qiang, naked leaps with a caonima aren’t always enough to hold the public’s attention.
As far as public intellectuals go, I think all things considered, China is fortunate to have a gadfly like Ai around. Again, he picked up much of his indignant seed from his father, the blazing-with-anti-Japanese fury poet Ai Qing. As I noted on July 19:
In dissembling Ai Weiwei’s rage, his public nudity, his crude gestures [“Fuck Pekin,” noted the left-wing Parisian journal Liberation gleefully, giving Ai’s flick-off of Tiananmen square an entire striking black-and-white page on June 17], it is too rarely remarked that he inherited the core of these contrarian characteristics from his father, the poet Ai Qing 艾青. One need only read Ai Qing’s Resistance War poetry / 抗战 诗歌 , with its description of a bloody, smiling and defiant inexplicably giant China of 1937, to get a sense of how little such an artist’s will can be bent against his morality.)
A relevant excerpt from Ai Qing’s 1937 poem, “He Has Risen 他起来了”:
He has risen —
From dozens of years of humiliation,
By the deep pit dug for him by the enemy.
His brow dripping with blood,
His chest also running with blood,
But he is laughing —
He has never laughed like this before.
Here’s the present citation:
H. Bork, “China: Flogging for State Artists: Ai Weiwei Raises Heavy Reproach Against Beijing,” Suddeutscher Zeitung (Munich), 16 September 2009.
Full text of the German article is here; full translation to follow this afternoon (Pacific Time, United States).
And that is quite a title! “Flogging for State Artists.”