AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY
(directed by Alison Klayman, 2012)
****+ (out of 5)
> This alarming but ultimately inspiring documentary about three years in the life of truly revolutionary Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei absolutely fascinated me. By turns illuminating, perplexing, terrifying and inspiring, this film is often unexpectedly, almost perversely funny in a gallows-humor kind of way. By the closing credits, I was absolutely in love with this amazing and courageous world artist and cultural visionary.
. A big bombastic FUCK YOU to the established powers in China and across the globe, this big teddy bear of a man is an ecstasy of human contradiction: quiet and bombastic, low key and incendiary, sincere yet as shamelessly self-promoting as Andy Warhol. He employs sub-contractors to make his art for him like Thomas Kincade… with talent. A fine artist, speaker, filmmaker, sculptor, architect, photographer and rabble-rouser, Ai Weiwei was shaken from his complacency by a major earthquake that revealed disastrous government corruption and resulted in the deaths of thousands of schoolchildren. (5335 to be exact- at least according to Chinese authorities who refused to reveal the mortality rates until Ai Weiwei and other activists publicly shamed them into releasing the figure.) Now, this son of a well-known state sanctioned Chinese poet uses the power of his unique voice and worldwide celebrity to promote freedom of thought and speech in his country and around the globe. His activist art galls the Chinese authorities to no end, yet he has become such a public figure they dare not “disappear” him permanently. An ominous detention in April of 2011 so shook the world they had to relent. One month later, these thought-criminals released a badly-shaken man. But after a period of circumspection Ai Weiwei boldly resumed his outspoken activism, using any tool at his disposal to get his message out.
. An attempt to co-opt his critical voice by awarding him the honor of designing the prestigious “Birds Nest” National Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics backfired on them disastrously, when he used the new media attention to ratchet up the pressure on them. These fascist state goons had no idea who they were dealing with. He finessed Twitter to whip up worldwide support and made subversive documentaries that were released on the worldwide web, even if citizens of his own country are blocked from seeing them, (as this blog is blocked) by the Great Firewall of China. He defiantly continues to give obtuse but dangerous interviews, create transparently critical art installations, take self-portraits of himself merrily flipping authority figures the bird. One must wonder: is Ai WeiWei fearless or crazy? He seems well-aware of the cost he may ultimately pay for his bold public stance, but determined to be true to his Muse and honest to the world. Surprisingly, the great artist seems strangely optimistic, clueless at times- even naïve for such an obviously deep thinker. He seems willing to be a martyr, if it comes to that, in the cause of artistic freedom.
. It’s a fine, fine film, but it doesn’t seem to go far enough. He seems distant, very detached from the project, and he is often so obtuse in service of his cultivated aura of mystery that he raises more questions than he answers. The interviews don’t seem to reveal much, though they sure made me want to find out more about this unique presence in the art world.
. Most importantly, Ai Weiwei’s art speaks for itself. It is amazing. Surprising. Arresting. Provocative. Thoughtful.
© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.