Ai Weiwei is one of the most famous living artists. But in his native China, his name has been deleted from the Internet. In his autobiography, he warned the West against China’s political go game.
Ai Weiwei has often proven himself as a trained provocateur – with amazing artistic events, but also in interviews in which he accused West of laziness and complacency.
This is not the case in Berlin. While reading at the theater am Schiffbauerdamm, his new book “1000 Years of Freud and Sorrow” came to the fore.
Ai Weiwei describes his family’s history: “In the fall of 1968, the management forced us to move again, as if they wanted to draw a clear dividing line to the ‘Great Deviation’: this time to the diwōzǐ, a hole in the ground that is no longer in use.”
He grew up in the cave of the earth
His father, Ai Qing, was a famous poet and friend of Mao Zedong in the early years of the People’s Republic. Later he was not liked and was deported with his sons to the far north of the country.
These caves were the primitive dwellings of the early pioneers in this part of Xinjiang. Ours was like a square hole dug into the ground, with a primitive roof of twigs and cedar stalks, sealed with several layers of grassy mud.”
Humiliation was the norm
The descriptions are clear. Ai Weiwei was ten years old when his father was assigned to a paramilitary production unit and had to clean the latrines there.
The West plays chess and China plays Joe.
In Reading in Berlin, Daniel told Kellmann that he could only bear to humiliate his father because he was young and stupid at the time. Constant humiliation was simply the norm for him.
His book says, “The fact that we had to live underground, punished my father, and also served the necessities of the political struggle.”
“Reactionaries like us belong to a class separate from the revolutionary masses, and our circumstances had to reflect that.” But the older Ai Weiwei got, the more he began to think critically.
‘There is mistrust in China’
His book describes this process of cognition. At the same time, she talks about the political campaigns of Mao Zedong and his successors. It is clear how China became what it is today – a dictatorship that allows technical progress but does not allow freedom of expression.
In an interview with Daniel Kellman, Ai Weiwei points out that China has yet to overcome the legacy of the Cultural Revolution. There is a general mistrust. People denounce each other because they think it will benefit each other. The entire community is being monitored and there is no indication that this will ever change.”
So Ai Weiwei warns the West: “China is on its way to becoming the world’s leading superpower. It thinks long-term and strategically, while the West is concerned with direct competition. This is a different game. The West plays chess and China plays Joe.”
book against forgetting
Ai Weiwei is one of the most famous Chinese dissidents today. And the fate of his father repeated itself with him. Although he was not exiled, he was placed under house arrest on flimsy grounds and imprisoned in 2011.
In prison he decided to write an autobiography and remember his father in it. The title “1000 years of joy and sorrow” comes from his poems. “You who live in abundance do not hope that the earth will preserve memories,” it is stated there.
But Ai Weiwei wants to preserve the memory – and he succeeded in this very exciting book, both personal and political.
Ai Weiwei: “1000 Years of Joy and Sorrow”, Penguin, 2021.
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