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### Ai Weiwei’s Perspective on Censorship, Israel, and Gaza

We speak with acclaimed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who recently had an exhibition in London canceled…

AMYGOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, joined by Juan González.

Shifting our focus to the renowned Chinese artist and activist, Ai Weiwei. In November, an exhibition in London featuring his work was abruptly canceled following a social media post where he criticized the long-standing financial backing of Israel by the United States. Ai Weiwei, known for his solidarity with Palestinians, notably highlighted Gaza’s plight in the 2016 documentary Human Flow.

Ai Weiwei, globally acclaimed for his artistry, faced a tumultuous ordeal in 2011 when he was detained at the Beijing airport without charge for 81 days. Since 2015, he has been residing in exile. Today, he joins us in New York City before his appearance at Town Hall as part of PEN America’s PEN Out Loud series, where he will delve into his latest work, the graphic memoir Zodiac.

AI WEIWEI: The London exhibit cancellation stemmed from a seemingly innocuous tweet I posted, which unexpectedly triggered a disproportionate reaction. The tweet merely shed light on the intricate dynamics between the U.S. and Israel, presenting factual observations rather than personal opinions. Surprisingly, galleries in Paris and London expressed apprehension, citing the desire to sidestep controversy and safeguard my interests as the rationale for postponing not just one but four of my exhibitions.

The incident underscored the pervasive censorship worldwide, particularly concerning dissenting voices on such conflicts. This censorship perpetuates the escalating discord with no resolution in sight. Consequently, several of my shows were axed, reinforcing the veracity of my initial tweet.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Were you taken aback by the backlash, considering your longstanding advocacy for the Palestinian cause, coupled with your stature as a revered Chinese artist in the Western sphere?

AI WEIWEI: The extent of the backlash indeed caught me off guard. I firmly believe in fostering a society that embraces diverse viewpoints and open discourse. However, the harsh repercussions within the art community, as well as other creative realms, signify a regressive stance on freedom of expression, human rights, and fundamental liberties.

AMYGOODMAN: Despite being hailed as one of the most prominent Chinese artists in the West, were you surprised by the swift retribution for your critical stance on the West’s support for Israel, particularly in London, Britain, and the U.S.?

AI WEIWEI: Perhaps my acclaim stemmed from misguided reasons. Nonetheless, as an artist, I am compelled to champion human dignity, basic rights, and freedom of speech. These principles propel me forward, despite the challenges I encounter.

AMYGOODMAN: Let’s delve into your latest creation, Zodiac, a graphic memoir. Could you elaborate on the essence of this work and the narratives it encapsulates?

AI WEIWEI: Zodiac represents a collaborative endeavor spanning several years, culminating in a visually captivating narrative intertwining my personal anecdotes with Chinese classical tales and contemporary events from both China and the Western world. The meticulous attention to detail and visual storytelling render this memoir a distinctive and engaging piece.

AMYGOODMAN: As a dissident figure in China, forced into exile and now facing setbacks even in the Western sphere, what message do you aim to convey amidst these challenges?

AI WEIWEI: The current global landscape demands a reevaluation of our values and convictions. The erosion of democratic principles, personal freedoms, and the looming specter of crises necessitates a collective reaffirmation of humanity and rights.

AMYGOODMAN: Thank you, Ai Weiwei, for sharing your insights. We look forward to your appearance at Town Hall in New York for further discussions on your latest work, Zodiac.

Up next, primary day unfolds in New Hampshire, with Donald Trump and Nikki Haley vying in the Republican arena. We will be joined by Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson to discuss her campaign against President Biden, whose name is notably absent from today’s ballot in New Hampshire. Stay tuned.

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Tags: , Last modified: March 17, 2024
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