Ai Weiwei: “F*ck Your Mother, Motherland”

WARNING: This post contains vulgar curses in Chinese.

Ai Weiwei is never one to shy away from controversy, and his most recent short film (thanks to commenter Wahaha for the tip) is no exception. It’s called, “Grass Mud Horse, Motherland.” Grass Mud Horse shares similar pronunciation to the common and vulgar curse, “f*ck your mother.”

The film consists of several people standing in front of a whiteboard with “Grass Mud Horse, Motherland” written on it. Each person curses (variations on the theme of “f*ck your mother”), and then says “motherland” [祖国].

You can watch the video here, but there’s not much to it that isn’t conveyed in this image taken from a post on Anti-CNN about the film:

Some comments from the Anti-CNN post:

Actually, this is very good.

He [Ai Weiwei] has always annoyed me. What kind of artist and architect is he? He’s a hoodlum! Even his studio is called “f*ck”

I fear Ai Qing [Ai Weiwei’s father and famous Chinese poet] couldn’t anticipate this! Two different generations.

Ha ha! Very good, very strong! Very yellow, very violent!

Courtesy demands reciprocity, so I’ll return the favor here: Grass mud horse [i.e., f*ck your mother], Ai Weiwei. Grass mud horse, everyone who appears in the video.

Unsurprisingly, many commenters said they thought Ai Weiwei had some sort of mental problem. What do you think about it? Art, politics, or something else?

0 thoughts on “Ai Weiwei: “F*ck Your Mother, Motherland””

  1. Hey, you are unblocked!

    As for the video – art it is not, and as a political statement it’s just not very interesting, but these are the kind of things one learns to expect of Ai Weiwei.


  2. @ Hurting the feelings of the Chinese people:

    So is everybody unblocked then? Danwei, Twitter, etc. etc.? It seems unlikely they’d unblock me for a summit but not more well known new media. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone at that summit would notice whether this blog was blocked or not. But if it’s a blanket unblocking then you’re probably right.


  3. It’s not a blanket unblocking. There’s still many sites inaccessible, including twitter and youtube. Even at the height of the Beijing Olympics many sites were banned, so don’t put too much weight on the media summit.


  4. I think the censors have a sophisticated system of lists, like “sites that should be blocked for ever,” “ad hot blocking,” “minor sites that will be banned before major national events,” etc.

    ChinaGeeks is perhaps on the “minor sites” list. I think It was blocked purely because the National Day was coming. Youtube perhaps belong on the “ad hoc” list since it was blocked after video clips involing monks were posted this spring. Twitter is the same because Xinjiang happened. Whether they will ever be unblocked is up to the situations in those regions. At last, websites of FLG or other organizations will be blocked forever.


  5. I’m always surprised Ai Weiwei doesn’t get in more trouble, but I suppose maybe the government thinks his way of expressing himself is too avant-guard to influence the laobaixing…

    It’s always possible to view this sort of art as quite crude (or as not even being art), but it obviously forms an antithesis to the governments representation of the 60th anniversary and their PRC narrative. The govs suppression of criticism and choice to control information rather than let it run free leaves no room for any sort of sophisticated expression of opposition anyway…


  6. SalmonFish,

    If Chinese believed that the perfect system in your mind would work in China, they wouldve fought for that.

    In Mumbai, India, a servant has to work 7 days otherwise no1 will hire her. 60 years of democracy, no change. Tell me, where the hell are those human right fighters ? isnt government people’s government ?


  7. Also, open your eyes, see how your system works in a developing country : … ows_No_Bounds/5495/

    India’s police violence knows no bounds

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    agencies. No government at any level has made any attempt to rein them in.
    In fact, politicians want law enforcement agencies to remain corrupt so they
    can escape prosecution for crimes they commit. The politicians also want
    the public to believe that law enforcement agencies are not to be trusted.


  8. http://www3.interscience.wiley.c … t?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

    The Politics of Police Violence in Democratic Brazil

    More than a decade after Latin America’s most recent turn to democracy,
    unchecked police violence and torture continue and in some cases have
    increased. This study examines police killings in 19 Brazilian states from
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    types of human rights violations, for two reasons. First, underlying social
    conflict has continued to exert a significant impact on the lethal use of
    force by police officers. Second, pro-order political coalitions, generally
    represented by right-wing politicians, have blocked effective measures to
    control police violence and have implemented public safety measures that
    stress the use of force. The analysis emphasizes the nonteleological nature
    of democratization processes and demonstrates the strength of political
    forces working to maintain “illiberal democracy.”



    The government has continued to interfere in the media. A news talk radio
    program hosted by former senator Jermsak Pinthong was taken off the air on
    February 13, 2008, after he claimed that Prime Minister Samak distorted the
    truth about a massacre of students at Thammasat University on October 6,
    1976. On April 19, Jakrapob Penkair-who was then in charge of the government
    ‘s Public Relations Department-ordered some 500 community radio operators to
    allocate three hours a day to promote the government or risk closure.

    Prime Minister Samak attempted to use the NBT broadcast to counter daily
    attacks by PAD-controlled media outlets, ASTV, and Manager Radio. On July 21
    , the time slot for the political talk show “Page Four News” on NBT TV
    Channel 11 was reassigned to commentators affiliated with the ruling People’
    s Power Party (PPP) to host a pro-government program called “Truth Today.”
    There has been little progress in official investigations into the cases of
    20 human rights defenders killed during the Thaksin administration. This
    includes the “disappearance” and presumed murder of well-known Muslim lawyer
    Somchai Neelapaijit.

    Thai authorities have threatened to revoke the registration of international
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  10. Ai WeiWei is just an example why democracy gradually becomes a joke in China.

    These freedom fighters claimed that CCP suppresses their freedom of speech. But when you try to say something that they dont like, they censor your posts on internet, like on NanFangZhouMou, iFeng.

    Also they claimed that you can love your motherland, but you dont have to CCP, which is of course right. but see what this @$$hole said, it would be OK if he had said “F@#$ CCP”, but “F@#$ motherland” ?

    I think that in America, it is OK for a person to say “F@#$ Bush”, but “F@#k America”? Every American and majority of those green card holders will say he is a F@#$ing @$$hole, so dont try to find excuse.


  11. In case of sea turtle (or fat@$$ sea turtle who can’t swim back) rage posts appearing here: How I interpreted this was that he’s trying to not say “f**k China”, but “f**k “harmonious” China”, aka the China is consistently referred to and promoted in such terms of endearment as “motherland.” Hence the use of motherland, as opposed to China. And I agree with him on this.


  12. @ Wahaha: To be fair, plenty of American avant-garde artists that have said far worse. Obviously it’s not popular with most Americans, but it isn’t meant for them.

    As for Ai and this video, I think the fact that it isn’t about the CCP is significant and that’s why I think it’s more of an artistic statement than a political one. I see it as a piece about individualism and attempting to free one’s own identity from the constraints of the “motherland”, both in the sense of the assumptions people make about you just because you’re from China (or wherever) and also in the sense of the cultural and other “baggage” that growing up in a specific country gives you. I think it’s significant that the video was made in Germany and the people in the video are all there, too. I could write a lot more about it, but that’s just my interpretation, so I won’t bother. I’d love to ask Ai about directly, but I don’t really have a way of getting in touch with him.


  13. Custer,

    For an American, it is not much different if he lives in Britain or Australia. So the place where he was born doesnt mean much.

    In China, there is huge difference, “祖国’ means the ancestor’s land. In China’s history, people fought and died for their land. People feel safe only when their land is safe. and more when Chinese say “祖国”, the word also implys the glorious time China once had and the misery China had suffered.

    So “祖国” in Chinese is like a holy word, like in America, no1 is allowed to insult Jesus Christ publicly.


  14. @ Wahaha, yeah yeah, whatever. Don’t you live in America? You’ve never heard anyone insult Jesus (or God, or whatever) publicly? Are you listening? I think I alone have probably done that a couple dozen times in moments of frustration.

    There are always people interested in skewering sacred cows. There’s nothing about “祖国” that somehow makes insults to it more offensive than anything that anyone can say in other countries. Chinese aren’t the only people with ancestral homelands and a history of struggling to protect them.

    @ A Chinese: The link doesn’t work for me anymore, either. Not sure why, but it worked before.


  15. I think the point isn’t that these things are only controversial in China—we can all think of tons of examples of things people have said in the States or elsewhere that upset people and resulted in apologies, whether in artistic settings or otherwise— but that we should uphold people’s right to be insulting and, moreover, recognize that it’s healthy for stuff to be insulted, provided it starts a meaningful conversation.

    When the Sex Pistols cursed and made fun of the Queen of England, for example, I think it shook Britain out of a stuffy sentimentality about their country and what it had been and was becoming. Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” similarly started some good discussions in the U.S. of spirituality versus the physical world, what sincere religiosity really means, etc, etc. Even that mild act of irreverence when some Chinese students carried a banner with “Xiaoping, Ni Hao!” written on it in 1980-something dusted away some crappy notions of deference to authority.

    That said, if there are no more sacred cows, then there’s no fun or meaning in being outrageous anymore, so the easily offended serve a purpose…


  16. @FYIADragoon
    In case of sea turtle (or fat@$$ sea turtle who can’t swim back) rage posts appearing here: How I interpreted this was that he’s trying to not say “f**k China”, but “f**k “harmonious” China”, aka the China is consistently referred to and promoted in such terms of endearment as “motherland.” Hence the use of motherland, as opposed to China. And I agree with him on this.

    Chinabashers never seem to let cluelessness get in the way of having an opinion do they?
    Your interpretation is wrong. Ai Weiwei has turned from attacking the CCP to attacking the country, or rather “Fuck Your Mum’s Country”.
    The man is a crank.


  17. OTR, Custer,

    Did you ever hear Japanese insult or make fun of their emperor ? While I heard lot of Americans made fun of the Queen of UK, I didnt hear a British mocking their queen.

    Even if they did, that doesnt mean Chinese should accept that too.


  18. Just earlier in the thread there’s an example of British mocking their queen in art, and I feel sure that sort of thing has happened in Japan, too. No one is saying China has to accept anything, just saying that this happens everywhere and China isn’t somehow a special case.


  19. @wahaha
    Um.. haven’t you heard of the the sex pistols song “God save the Queen?”
    It was clearly an assault on the Queen and the Monarchy by a British Band.
    And it was in 1977.


  20. The fact that he had to find an irrelevant white male shows that he’s a bit too left leaning, and by that I mean the Western left- that is completely alien and inappropriate for China.

    I would have far, far more sympathy for these folks if they had their own ideas.


  21. Just because a few of us have mentioned the Sex Pistols and making fun of the Queen of England, here are the opening lyrics:

    God save the queen
    The fascist regime
    They made you a moron
    Potential H-bomb

    God save the queen
    She ain’t no human being
    There is no future
    In England’s dreaming

    And no, Wahaha, it doesn’t mean everyone else has to make fun of their countries’ treasured symbols in the same way, just that it can be refreshing to do so every once in a while. I can’t say the Ai Weiwei piece in question is his most thoughtful or interesting one I’ve come across, but sometimes plain rudeness goes a long way. Takes things down a peg and makes people wonder why they were so careful and worshipful around x or y anyway.


  22. This is getting weird.

    Let us say a british say “Fuck you, Elisabeth”. what would British think ?


    Let us say a Japanese say ” Emperor, you are an @$$hole.”, what would Japanese think ?


    Let us say a british go to China and tell China’s media that the queen is a bitch,

    Let us say a Japanese go to China and tell China’s media that his emperor is an @$$.

    Welll, I think you guys get my point.

    Ai WeiWei is an @$$hole in the eyes of Chinese.


  23. I want to apologize here that I must offend some people with the examples. I just give some examples to show my point, absolute disrespect to your queen or emperor.


  24. Wahaha,

    What I’m saying is: that is PRECISELY what the Sex Pistols did (and, yes, they are British). They cursed out the queen of England on TV and then went on tours around the world with pictures of the queen posted up with bands across her eyes and safety pins and all that punk rock stuff. They rented a boat on her jubileum day (what every that is) and blared music up and down the Thames until they were shut down by the cops. But your point holds: people were offended. Americans have similarly been offended by Michael Moore’s criticisms of the U.S. at French screenings of his movies. It’s only natural, as it is for Chinese.

    But that doesn’t mean artists should stop offending people. Offending and being offended are part of art. So, Ai Weiwei has a role to play and your outrage has a role to play. If, in the end, a useful conversation about patriotism and respect for authority and courtesy and what not ensues, then the art was successful. If not, maybe it wasn’t much of a piece.

    Incidentally, my big complaint with Thailand (which you noted in an earlier example that I somehow overlooked) isn’t just that they hassle people about insulting the king, but that anything can conceivably be seen to be an insult to the king. So, when workers criticize a company or go on strike, the king can take offense. Grrr…


  25. There seems to be some confusion going on here. Does Ai Weiwei define “motherland” in his video? If it means the ruling government, maybe it deserves support from people concerned with the social injustice. If it attacks the entire Chinese people, should every Chinese celebrate it or even be grateful for it while being slapped in the face? It is precisely the boundlessness and aimlessness of Ai’s criticism that vitiates his power of criticism. China needs more sensible and cool-minded criticism than obscene abuses, no matter how loud they sound.

    The “Grass Mud Horse” is acceptable precisely because of its humorous reserve and Ai Weiwei should not mistake people’s acceptance of it as a kind of masochistic pleasure. He leaves the part of witty social criticism of “Grass Mud Horse” in its battle with the Crab while stripping off its humor by blatantly lavishing vulgar abuses, which is not only meaningless but also gawkily stupid.

    The analogy between Ai’s video and the British song is much less apporpriate than it seems. The song has a definite target of criticism, that is, the monarchy represented by the queen. It was perfectly fine for any British people that were not satisfied with the monarchy to identify with the sentiment. Besides, the “abuses” in the song was not as vulgar as that in Ai’s video. The singer of the song may not be deemed as crazy.


  26. Unity and justice and freedom
    For the fatherland!
    For these let us all strive
    Brotherly with heart and hand!
    Unity and justice and freedom
    Are the pledge of fortune;
    Flourish in this fortune’s blessing,
    Flourish, fatherland.
    Flourish in this fortune’s blessing,
    Flourish, fatherland.

    From the ruins risen newly,
    to the future turned, we stand.
    Let us serve your good weal truly,
    our fatherland!
    Triumph over bygone sorrow,
    can in unity be won.
    For we shall attain a morrow,
    when over our fatherland,
    there is radiant sun,
    there is radiant sun!


  27. Proposed performance by Liu Jin for the “Break on Through to the Other Side” festival, East Side Gallery Berlin, Sunday 8 November 2009:

    Performance title: “Our Song”

    Performance script:
    Liu Jin will travel to Berlin to direct a choir spontaneously assembled from members of the audience; one half of the choir will sing the West German national anthem while the other half of the audience will sing the former East German national anthem at the same time (simultaneously).


  28. Mr. Ai has a misconception of motherland. Republic of China is our motherland for Chinese people all over the world.
    I love my motherland. I know Mr. Ai loves his motherland very much.
    He just angry about communist china, and misconceive communist china as his motherland.
    people’s republic china is nobody’s motherland, it is a brutal regime by communist occupant.


  29. Lol, he even joined up with a foreigner to say “fuck your[his] motherland”.

    @ FYIADragoon

    If he wanted to say “fuck you, harmonious motherland”, he would have said “fuck you, harmonious motherland” or “操你妈,和谐的祖国”.

    @ Mitch

    You have a misconception of motherland. The Great Qing Empire is our motherland for Chinese people all over the world. The Republic of China is nobody’s motherland, it is a separatist regime who has lost the mandate of heaven, which it took from us. Because of that it now must eat out of the hand of its former oppressors.


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