The Internet offers a space where freedom of expression and thought is possible under totalitarian rule, Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) said yesterday in a teleconference with Taiwanese media.
“We are living at a special moment in history. The Internet allows us to live in between reality and imagination. Its potential is great,” said Ai in the interview, which was held shortly after a Beijing court yesterday announced it had rejected Ai’s second and final appeal of a US$2.4 million fine imposed on his company for tax evasion, a case largely considered a way to muzzle the voice of the outspoken artist, filmmaker, blogger and activist.
An internationally celebrated artist, Ai is known for exploring injustices in Chinese society using art and social networking tools.
“Oppression continues and thrives as long as the country is under one-party rule and there exists no independent legal system and democratic system in China,” Ai said.
“As a human being, I have my own view of the world, and I find ways to express my point of view. I have no control over the matter if the authorities persecute me for having ideas that contradict theirs,” he added. “It is the way I understand the world. If I change it, I won’t be me anymore.”
The artist said he lives under constant surveillance by the Chinese government and is barred from leaving the country as his passport was taken after he was detained last year.
Ai is one of the four artists who is to represent Germany at the next Venice Biennale, set to open on June 1 next year.
He said he has yet to come up with ideas for the art exhibition.
“I never plan my works. To me, creating art is as natural as farting,” he said.
Ai held a 20-minute interview with Taiwanese media after a press screening of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, a documentary by US filmmaker Alison Klayman, who followed Ai and his team for the past two years. The film, offers insight into the life of the dissident artist through interviews, personal documents and found footage.
When asked how he defines and categorizes the various activities and types of art he has been involved in, he said there is no category for what he does.
“All my works are the same. Whether it is Twittering, blogging, holding protests, or having interviews, I am doing exactly the same thing,” Ai said.
The artist said he hoped Taiwan’s festival-goers would take their friends, lovers and parents to see the documentaries and take a good look at “the lives of those in deep distress.”
Along with Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, six documentary works made by Ai and his team which include Disturbing the Peace (老媽蹄花, 2009) and So Sorry (深表遺憾 2011) will be screened at the 2012 Taiwan International Documentary Festival. More information can be found at www.tidf.org.tw.