2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
If you know the work of Ai Weiwei, you will love this book. Check out this write up from the excellent Gwarlingo Blog:
I didn’t expect a publication that has been touted as one of the “Best Art Books of 2012″ to stand just six inches tall and contain only two photographs. But as Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s new book Weiwei-isms proves, small can be powerful.
This slim, pocket-sized volume compiles quotes made by Ai in interviews, in newspaper articles, on his blog, and via Twitter. “Chairman Mao was the first in the world to use Twitter,” says Ai. “All his quotations are within 140 words.” Weiwei-isms, published by Princeton University Press and designed by Pamela Schnitter with art direction by Maria Lindenfeldar, is brilliantly executed, and the high-quality paper and sewn binding are a pleasure to leaf through.
Ai’s reference to Mao is important, for his book cleverly satirizes the Chairman’s infamous book of quotations, ironically referred to as the Little Red Book in the West.
It is uncommon for a visual artist to privilege words over images, but that is precisely what Ai has done again and again over the course of his career. In a culture where free-speech is suppressed, direct discourse has exceptional value—a value that Western society has largely forgotten in this age of political hyperbole, Internet blather, and ad speak.
It is one thing to create art that skirts government censors through subtlety and ambiguity (as artists have done in repressed societies for centuries), and quite another to wear your politics on your sleeve (or your Twitter feed, in this case). As Ai discovered, such boldness can quickly get you thrown into prison, or worse.
For Ai, “this struggle is a ‘war of words,’” says editor Larry Warsh in his introduction to Weiwei-isms, ”and his own words—spoken, written, or tweeted—are ‘like a bullet out of the gun,’” “Ai Weiwei repeatedly points out, and centuries of history attest, human rights and freedom of expression are not set by anyone’s agenda. They are inalienable rights, central to what makes us human.”
Both Ai’s Twitter feed and censored blog (which I have written about before) are works of art in their own right. And as Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore writes in the Independent, “Ai is not only a master of generating self-publicity online but also of the short, sweet quote. At his best he can use Twitter in a way that a Japanese poet might use a haiku: harnessing the compactness of the form to his advantage. ‘During the days in detention, I thought most about the moon,’ posted Ai in 2011. Such pared-down lyricism makes his language a pleasure to read.” After all, this is the land of Confucius and Lao Tzu.
One of the things I value most about Ai’s work is that he doesn’t limit himself to one particular medium. “Everything is art,” Ai says. “Everything is politics.”
Ai lives his art, as seen in Alison Klayman’s recent documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. After Ai is beaten by police for trying to testify for Tan Zuoren, a fellow earthquake investigator, he is diagnosed with a cerebral hemorage and must undergo emergency brain surgery.
Ai photographs his hospital experience and later, he and his assistants methodically go from police station to police station filing complaints about the attack, but getting nowhere. The act of confronting Chinese bureaucracy and injustice directly and documenting the result is the kind of art Franz Kafka could appreciate.
“I want to prove that the system is not working,” argues Ai. “You can’t simply say that the system is not working. You have to work through it.”
Weiwei-isms is organized into six themes: Freedom of Expression; Art and Activism; Government, Power, and Making Moral Choices; Digital World; History, Historical Moment, and the Future; and Personal Reflections. The little black book is a direct snub to the Chinese government and represents everything Mao’s Little Red Book does not: individuality, social change, the basic human right of freedom speech. This is a big burden for a tiny 120-page book to carry, and yet it does the job remarkably well.
The mere act of compiling Ai’s statements into a book that mocks Mao’s legacy is a radical gesture. And I would go so far as to say that the act of purchasing and sharing this book is a small show of support for human rights. Of course, Chinese citizens are the ones who would benefit most from Weiwei-isms, and they will not have easy access to this publication—an injustice we would do well to keep in mind.
In the West we have become indifferent to free speech. We have forgotten that words have the power to change minds and incite action. But totalitarian governments and religious fundamentalists know better. They ban books and censor not because they are crazy or ignorant, but because they comprehend reality: the ability to speak our own truth is the most potent and human act of all.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This item is true to photo, and just perfect. Amazon had the best price I could find anywhere! Shipped with amazon prime right away. Not to mention this is a wonderful book, a quick read if you'd like it to be, wonderful collection of Ai Weiwei's quotes. Very satisfied.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Ai Weiwei is one of my favorite artists and thinkers and activists and personalities so of course I appreciate this collection of his thoughts.