Sunday, 29 May 2011

Ai Weiwei: Bodhisattva

"If there is one person who is still not free, then I am not; if there is one person who still suffers from insult and humiliation, then I do. Do you understand yet?"
Tweeted by Ai Weiwei, 23 August 2009

I don't buy a newspaper very often, but when I do it is usually The Guardian on Saturday.  Yesterday Hari Kunzru had an excellent feature piece on Ai Weiwei. In the UK Ai Weiwei is most known for his recent Sunflower seeds installation in the turbine hall at the Tate Modern, in London. 
Sunflower Seeds is made up of millions of small works, each apparently identical, but actually unique. However realistic they may seem, these life-sized sunflower seed husks are in fact intricately hand-crafted in porcelain. 
On Sunday 3rd April, eight weeks ago today, Ai Weiwei was arrested for supposedly economic crimes. He has been held captive, without being charged, since then. Commentators agree that he is being held for his political dissidence rather than for not paying his taxes.

Ai Weiwei is interested in, and has worked for, the liberation of the Chinese people. Freedom is the word that he uses, freedom to express ideas, freedom to be different to your neighbour and to be have different ideas to those of your government. Freedom to say what is true:
On 12 May 2008 came the turning point, when this provocateur and prankster became a genuine threat to the Chinese state. An earthquake of magnitude 8.0 hit Sichuan province, its epicentre 50 miles north-west of the capital Chengdu. Official figures later confirmed 69,000 dead and 374,000 injured, with another 18,000 unaccounted for. As the scale of the devastation became clear, Ai wrote a series of blog posts, at first grief-stricken and then increasingly angry as it became apparent that school buildings throughout the region had been disproportionately affected by the earthquake. Up to 7,000 schools collapsed, often in places where surrounding buildings remained standing. An unknown number of pupils were inside. The so-called "tofu dregs" construction of these schools appeared to be the result of official corruption and siphoning off of funds. Because of China's one-child policy, many families had lost their only son or daughter.....
What Ai Weiwei tweeted last year exemplifies the bodhisattva ideal: to put off one's own liberation, until all are liberated, and to work to that end.

You can sign a petition for the release of Ai WeiWei here: Writing your name there is one small step to liberating all beings. What else can you do?

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