Contemporary Art | The artist Ai Weiwei is creating a huge impact on international and Western opinion, which lacks a mythic figure. A veritable contemporary prophet, establishing his political activism in art and vice versa, he represents for Chinese youth a sense of freedom of expression. The Internet, his blog and twitter are at the heart of his activity, along the lines of a « 3.0 artist ».
Put online in 2006, his blog intimately mixes private life, work and views against the Chinese Communist Party. His political engagement as a symbol, Ai Weiwei penetrates and integrates social networks to the point of becoming a media in his own right : Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Skype smash physical barriers to pieces; his passport confiscated, it’s by video-conferencing that he collaborated with the architects Herzog & de Meuron for the realization of London’s Serpentine Gallery pavilion. If the Chinese authorities have closed down his blog since 2009, his Twitter account today brings together more than 200 000 followers worldwide. He incessantly nurtures and activates a virtual community ready to support his political engagement via formulae devised as rapidly-spreading protest slogans : « Listen Chinese Government, Nudity is not Pornography » , « I think all the poets live on Twitter ».
With a camera as an extension of his arm, Ai Weiwei permanently stimulates and cultivates instantaneous emotion; he absorbs and relays in quasi real time aspects of his environment and activism shared almost immediately on the web : photographs and films of protests, his altercations with Chinese police, injustices and the degraded backdrop of futurist cities. A young journalist Alison Klayman has followed him on demand, camera in hand, for four years and has produced a documentary, Never Sorry (2012), which shines out in cinema festivals all over the world. There is a dedicated website and merchandise on offer.
Everything he sees feeds into his work in the artistic milieu which has for a long time recognised him through a great number of exhibitions in great western museums (Tate Modern, Jeu de Paume, etc.), international galleries (Continua, Lisson, etc.) and through his participation in renowned exhibitions such as Documenta XII in 2007. At the 2013 Venice Biennial, he is representing Germany.
Named the most influential personality of the artworld by Art Review, Ai Weiwei today forms one of the « artists of value » recognised by the international art market and by the financial sphere of mutual funds in art.
Artist, poet, designer, architect, urban planner and political activist, Ai Weiwei weaves and constructs, in the permanent present of the web, the outlines of a vast virtual and real media space of which he is the centre.