Ai Weiwei: A Chinese Artist Abroad

Ai Weiwei in his studio in Beijing, taken in April 2015 Photo (c) Harry Pearce/Pentagram, 2015

Ai Weiwei in his studio in Beijing, taken in April 2015 Photo (c) Harry Pearce/Pentagram, 2015

Tomorrow, Ai Weiwei’s solo exhibition at the Royal Academy will finally open to the public. The media response to the exhibition and initial reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, with The Guardian hailing it as ‘momentous and moving‘. ‘The exhibition is powerful and poignant and handsome‘ writes Will Gompertz at the BBC, while the Telegraph noted that it was ‘the first real opportunity to judge Ai Weiwei’s work as art rather than as appendage to some news story.’ Ai himself has of course been relentlessly documenting his day to day encounters and high profile press events (including Thursday’s 8 mile walk across London with Anish Kapoor in solidarity with refugees) on his instagram account and twitter feed. As to my own thoughts on the exhibition, I’ve included my piece for Apollo Magazine below along with some photographs of the opening and preview which I was able to attend on Tuesday evening. I’ll also be delivering a public lecture at the Royal Academy on the 10th October on ‘Ai Weiwei, Social Media and Online activism’, the lecture is open to the public and tickets are free so I’m looking forward to sharing my research on how Ai’s practice intersects with his online presence. Continue reading

Ai Weiwei, amnesty and digital tributes


Earlier this week it was announced that Ai Weiwei and Joan Baez have been named as co-recipients of Amnesty International’s 2015  “良心大使” ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ award, the highest honour from the international human rights organisation which is bestowed upon figures “who have shown exceptional leadership in the fight for human rights, through their life and work.”

In a press release issued by Amnesty, Salil Shetty, Secretary General of the organisation is quoted as saying: “The Ambassador of Conscience Award is a celebration of those unique individuals who have used their talents to inspire many others to take injustice personally. That is why both Joan Baez and Ai Weiwei make such worthy recipients; they are an inspiration to thousands more human rights activists, from across Asia to America and beyond.” Adding specifically in relation to Ai’s nomination that: “through his work Ai Weiwei reminds us that the right of every individual to express their self must be protected, not just for the sake of society, but also for art and humanity.” Continue reading

The dividing point between ‘zombie social activism’ and artistic mobilisation

In an article that appeared recently on artnet news, Daria Daniel asked Is a new artistic activism emerging via social media and forms of public protest? The article focuses on international art groups who have created works in response to recent social and political crises, from a collective of Mexican artists who posed naked in public spaces to demonstrate against recent student killings to Titus Kaphar and Hank Willis Thomas’ artistic reaction to the Ferguson protests as well as the outpouring of political cartoons and visual tributes which emerged following the Charlie Hebdo Attacks.

Titus Kaphar Yet Another Fight for Rememberance .  Photo:

Titus Kaphar, ‘Yet Another Fight for Remembrance’

Illustration by graphic designer Lucille Clerc.  Photo:

Illustration by graphic designer Lucille Clerc.


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