Berkeley Talks: Chinese activist Ai WeiWei on art, exile and politics
"It's not that I intentionally try to create something or to crystallize something, but rather I've been put in extreme conditions, and I have to focus on dealing with those situations," he says.
In Berkeley Talks episode 181, renowned artist and human rights activist Ai WeiWei discusses art, exile and politics in a conversation with noted theater director and UCLA professor Peter Sellars and Orville Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society and former dean of Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.
Ai, who grew up in northwest China under harsh conditions because of his poet father's exile, openly criticizes the Chinese government's stance on democracy and human rights. He is well-known for his provocative works, including his 2014-15 installation on San Francisco Bay's Alcatraz Island, @Large, that the LA Times called, "an always-poignant, often-powerful meditation on soul-deadening repressions of human thought and feeling."
"Normally, people call me an artist or activist, and I am often forced into one condition," he says. "It's not that I intentionally try to create something or to crystallize something, but rather I've been put in extreme conditions, and I have to focus on dealing with those situations. Normally, I don't accept the easy answer.
"So I think I have to find a language to illustrate my expression, and it comes out in certain ideas or materials. We can call it art. I don't think my art really looks like art, but still, it's hard to categorize it. I'm a bit ashamed about it because everything in real life, it has a purpose. It has clear problems and solutions. But the art is not really about that. It rather creates problems after problems. So yeah, that's what I do."
Listen to the full conversation in Berkeley Talks episode 181, "Chinese activist Ai WeiWei on art, exile and politics."
This Sept. 24 event was co-presented by Cal Performances, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) and the Townsend Center for the Humanities.