Motherland, How Can I Love you more?
— Thought on Ai Wei Wei as a Chinese 20 something
My first cultural shock was being presented of Tank Man in my American History class at the age of 17. It was the first time I saw it and I was addicted to find out more information that I have been hidden from for years.
Ai Wei Wei’s name constantly jumped out and I have actively seek his foot print ever since. Unfortunately I missed the tail of Wei Wei’s art show at Alcatraz, but captured some of his words. It was interesting to see prison--a least free place, can actually inspires an artist the most. Ai Wei Wei was locked up in prison for 81 days and up to today he still has no words on that dark period other than being more firm of his belief and more outspoken than he ever was.
Immediately after the tour, I watched the documentary Never Sorry. Only to learn that fact that I am in a rage with my mother land, especially after exposing to Ai Wei Wei, the camera caught raw footage of what happened in Sichuan, recording the amount of children dead from low budget construction that being triggered by earthquake, and how the parents were ignored or arrested when voicing out their concerns to the government. I wasn’t sure if this is still the motherland that I knew.
In the documentary Never Sorry, Wei Wei is presented as this underground hero, and the conflict between him and the government was painted black and white. He even explicitly said the way he does art is like playing cheese with someone, they make a move, he makes a move. However I do think the good and bad guy story plot is an oversimplified situation from a western media perspective, and I couldn’t persuade myself which side I should take, perhaps the real question is not about chose a side, but about being humane and caring for the individuals in China. Just like Wei Wei’s art, presenting 10 million individually-made sunflower seed, as being 10 million individuals crushed upon thousands of western viewer’s feet.
I had this conversation with a 20 something Chinese friend who studies political science in the states about her view on Chinese politics. She said Chinese way of centralized government only makes sense to China, this is a Chinese special way of development in order to be most effective managing millions of people and come to a decision. It makes me think about this notion of democracy that many Chinese intellectuals revolutionized may not be necessary ideal. The father of propaganda, Edward Bernays has successfully manufactured consent by the means of propaganda, there is no democracy per se because the collective mind can be easily constructed. Under heavily media influence, democracy is a hat we put on, but more importantly is the act we do that counts.
I don’t know how to summarize Chinese way of development, but I think Wei Wei has been projecting a lot of his own experience into his voicing, like he is reliving Chinese Cultural Revolution,
You could almost think he is reversing Cultural Revolution in the most radical way, he destroy antique or paint Coca-cola over Han destiny pot, by copying Cultural Revolution to inform people the kind of stage we are at, how we are crushing traditions at this age, the same way like how Chinese government crushing him.
On the other hand, Wei Wei is smart, he knows he couldn’t possibly become Liu Xiaobo or Liu Shaokun to save China by investigating into individuals cases, his radical art has became a symbol that attracts attentions so that Chinese people know him and the world outside of China know him. This kind of critical voice is what China actually needs the most. We grow up learning the phrase, 良药苦口利于病，忠言逆耳利于行(Just as bitter medicine cures sickness , so advice benefits conduct), but practice the least nowadays. I only wish there are more Chinese 20 something to see what Wei Wei is doing and become the critics. Chinese government criticizes Ai Wei Wei not patriotic, for me he is the most patriotic of all. Thank you Wei Wei for still having your faith in this country.