Ai Weiwei. Using Art to Fight Against Violated Human Rights

Essay, 2012

9 Pages


Ai Weiwei is a world renowned Chinese artist, photographer, cultural and political critic who is ambitious and has the utmost self assurance of things working out. He was born in 1957 in Beijing, China. Weiwei comes from a family of artists who express the Chinese autocracy by means of art. The father Ai Qing was a Chinese poet and his wife, Lu Qing an artist too. Weiwei’s father was an active and very influential political and cultural activist during the mid nineteen fifties who ended up being imprisoned during the 1958 Anti-Rights Movement (Weiwei and Ambrozy, xxv). In New York, Weiwei undertook working odd jobs as a way of studying art and lived in the east village. Here he learnt more about political activism due to the frequent protests about the squatter and housing rights (Weiwei and Ambrozy, xix). Weiwei has contributed greatly to modern art and architecture with some of his work of art being amazing and worthwhile. Apart from art, Weiwei has had a great role in the Chinese politics. He has stood out greatly in criticizing the uptight and unresponsive Chinese government’s legal system regarding human rights and democracy. His work of art, which he conveys through the social media and in his studio in Beijing speak a lot about the system. In recent times, the Chinese government opted to close his studio and his blogs as a means of detaching him from his audience and sympathizers. The Chinese government went ahead and arrested and detained Weiwei for some time on charges of tax evasion. According to the Chinese government, Weiwei’s rebellious activities are a means of mocking the regime. His free will of expression has nearly cost him his life. The Chinese government felt his art was a way of showing sarcasm and this resulted in negative responses towards Ai Weiwei.

In 2008, during the Sichuan earthquake tragedy, Weiwei was among the first human rights activists demanding urgent intervention towards the issue. Numerous lives had been lost in the process because of corruption and greed. According to a report by the transparency International, (2010) corruption is an act of abusing the power one has been entrusted with for person gain. This abuse of power hurts each and every individual’s happiness and well being because of lacking integrity and breach of authority by the people in power. In china, more than nine thousand lives were lost during this earthquake, including teachers and students. According to the report about the earthquake, the nine thousand was an account of twelve percent of the total number of victims.

During Weiwei’s imprisonment, the one tiger, eight breasts was one work of the art the government uncovered in the process. The picture incorporates a woman sitting on the left next to Weiwei, who apparently is in the middle of the portrait. The woman symbolizes the intellectual individuals in the society due to her sitting posture on the backless chair. The meaning of the sculpture was the fact that these intellectuals cannot be relied because as it is accustomed by the government, they will be dragged away into solitude in case they suspect foul play (Hays). The portrait also includes another woman sitting on the right and another at the middle next to Weiwei. The woman on the right portrays the individuals in the society who the government relies upon in case of hard times and they have secret dealings with. This due to the fact that in the picture, she is sitting calmly and formally with her hands folded on one side. The woman’s posture is portrayed differently like someone having secret deals with the central figure in the picture (Hays). The woman who is sitting next to Weiwei in the picture does not have a position where she can sit thus her standing position. She represents the media in China who have been kept in their place by the central government and only called in to assist when things get rough. There is another woman who is hiding behind the chairs. She represents those individuals in the society who do not have a voice and their social role in the society as manual workers (Hays). Weiwei in the picture is viewed to be sitting at the command of the women with his hand resting on the left knee. This signifies his stand about his true unreliable nature towards his government and the fact that he does not support the government (Hays).

Since time immemorial, the Chinese government has identified that there is corruption in the system and thus the dire need to end it but time again; it has become hard (Bergsten, Freeman, Lardy and Mitchel, 91). Each new government that comes into power works together with corrupt individuals and companies for their own personal gain (Bergsten, Freeman, Lardy and Mitchel, 91). Despite the laws and policies that govern good leadership, corruption in China is mainly concentrated in government projects that have an extensive involvement of the state (Pei). These include infrastructure, procurement among a few that have a lot of money being generated. In most cases, government officials form alliances with the local criminal networks and misuse public funds for their own personal benefits. Weiwei incorporates his art work in trying to defend the innocent and disapprove of what the corrupt Chinese government officials did in a bid to enrich themselves. Low level corruption caused the 2008 Sichuan earthquake tragedy because of the cheap and in appropriate tenders provided to the construction companies (Bergsten, Freeman, Lardy and Mitchel, 96). This triggered protests by angry citizens against the local government that resulted in clashes between the police and the huge number of protesters. Their bone of contention was the poor construction work done especially to the schools around the area because it resulted in the loss of thousands of innocent schoolchildren. The schools according to one parent did not have an emergency exit since all doors were located at one strategic point (Hays).

Through the use of mass media and art, Weiwei was able to express the feelings of the angered government protesters to the rest of the world. One of his most profound and famous paintings was known as ‘Snake Ceiling’. This work of art was made from a wide number of school backpacks that were meant to signify the grief of parents who lost their children in the wreckage. The main theme for Weiwei to incorporate the backpacks tied together in the form of a snake (Clary). This signified the number of students who lost their lives in the earthquake by taking a look at the numerous bags found. This was during Weiwei’s visit to the earthquake stricken town of Sichuan (Clary). Weiwei went ahead and included the number of the people who lost their lives together with their names. The list was then put on display at the museum where it would be on display to the public (Clary). Human rights have been violated more than once and the powerful Chinese in authority have the mandate to do as they please (Human Rights Violation in China). Violating an individual’s right has been at the forefront of Chinese rule. The government in its capability tries as much as it can to squeeze the country tightly by using the ultimate power control to rule. Weiwei addresses this issue in his blog by claiming that the voice of the oppressed is only heard for a short period in the social media but after some time, it becomes a mystery again and fades into thin air. Other countries that support human right activities like America have turned a deaf ear to the cries of such communist countries (Human Rights Violation in China). This is due to fact that these countries especially china are financially stable and they do not want to destroy the good business ties they have.


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Ai Weiwei. Using Art to Fight Against Violated Human Rights
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Martin Kirugi (Author), 2012, Ai Weiwei. Using Art to Fight Against Violated Human Rights, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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