After some time in Europe, which he spent doing art stuff and recuperating from what Professor Farnsworth would call his stylish head wound, Ai Weiwei is back in Beijing. And thanks to Tiger Temple (Ai’s own blog seems to be gone, we can’t access it even here in the States), we’ve got some pretty solid updates.
First up is a twenty minute video “diary”, which is really more of a loose conversation on a number of topics, such as Ai’s involvement and what he said in a Western newspaper article. The recording isn’t great, and they’re speaking too quietly to hear at points, but it might be of interest to some (obviously it is all in Chinese, though).
More interesting, though, is this video of a phone interview with Ai Weiwei on a TV program (I think it’s an HK program but it’s hard to tell as the name of the show is blocked). He has some interesting things to say about his frankness, society, and all things personal. Some especially interesting snippets below:
A person, if he doesn’t have any means of communicating his ideas to the public, is impossible to listen to. For example, if you take a taxi in Beijing, [you will find that] every driver will talk about some social or political issues, but you wouldn’t say that he is focused on society or politics because he doesn’t have a way of communicating publicly about them, he can only tell you, right? But if you’re a bit more famous, many people aren’t willing to talk about anything publicly, because…well, there are some people like me, who basically just say whatever they see.
The internet is very important, partially as technology and partially because it allows for widespread mutual identification between people.
The reason I have some [social] influence is because […] lots of people are paying attention to the same topics [as me], so I hope that in the future I become more influential, so more and more people pay attention to these topics. This is obviously a necessary condition for a civil or democratic society.
Of course some people will be unhappy [with having many people paying attention to social issues], but I feel, as to the people who are truly unhappy, can we still call them people?
This world may never change, but we need to change. That is, we ourselves must change. Otherwise, if we don’t speak out, we will be changed by others […] if we don’t keep persisting in saying these things, we will be changed by others. That’s how it is.
The interview touches on some other stuff, including Ai Weiwei’s thoughts on some of his classmates (the famous first class to graduate from Beijing Film Academy after the Cultural Revolution, which included film luminaries Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou, among others), and his $1600 t-shirt. It’s well worth a watch for anyone who speaks Chinese, but the big takeaway line, I think, is “If we don’t change ourselves, we will be changed by others.” Tiger Temple liked that line, too. (The original Chinese is 如果我们自己不改变，就会被他人改变).
Although Ai Weiwei’s blog seems dead, his Twitter is alive and kicking.
(Note: my translations here should be considered even more suspect than usual as it’s much easier for me to translate text than something I’m listening to.)