Passage 1: Upon the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, China has been controlled by the Communist party entrusting its first leadership to Mao Zedong. Geographically located in between North Korea and Vietnam, China shares its border with 14 countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, India, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Vietnam. China’s temporal dispositions have been known to have a broad spectrum of various climates, ranging from exceptionally unforgiving sub-arctic temperatures in the north all the way to tropical conditions near the south. Overall, China’s global role has shifted exponentially since the latter half of the 1970’s. That is – moving from a closed and centralized system to a global economic powerhouse in a short amount of time. In 2010, China officially was deemed the largest exporter of products globally. These significant economic transitions took place as a result of the countries’ moving away from a national mindset of agricultural reliance to those of state business ventures, complex and powerful banking systems, budding stock markets, exponential growth and prosperity of middle class and private sector, and opening up to global investments/ foreign trading. The country is home to Taoist, Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim populations primarily speaking the languages of standard Mandarin and Cantonese.
Passage 2: Ai WeiWei’s absence at the 2013 Venetian biennale was resounding to say the least. He was not allowed to attend the bi-annual event nor leave the country for “reasons unknown.” However, one might infer that it could have something to do with being a dissident to the Chinese government. WeiWei’s first work, S.A.C.R.E.D., is not only relevant to the aforementioned notion but a very interesting shift in perspective on the authoritarian Chinese regime. This particular work evokes questions on why WeiWei was allowed to leave captivity in the first place, and now why he seems to be landlocked in China. Further, his work entitled “Straight,” is an even more divisive subject, seemingly. The death of children (in regard to the Sechuan earthquakes of 2008) is always an emotional catalyst, however, holding those responsible for the poor construction of the schools seemed to be the focus of WeiWei’s intentions and artistic criticisms. Additionally, in regards to WeiWei’s work in “Bang,” it seems as though the artist was trying to poke at the overall Gestalt / notion of being (as Pink Floyd once famously put it) “just another brick in the wall.” Further, staying an individual in a sea of individuals is almost an oxy-moron, a notion to which the artist may have been alluding.
Passage 3: Although there was not a distinctly labeled “dissident China” pavilion at this year’s biennale, Ai WeiWei was chosen (from a select few artists) by the German and French pavilions, which speaks to the global implications of WeiWei’s works, not only at this biennale but throughout his artistic career. Extremely popular not only in China, but also pervading the entire global artistic demographics, WeiWei proves himself exceptionally talented, intelligent, and provides astute and pointed criticisms of not just the Chinese government, but all global governments as a whole. Touching upon culturally relevant “hot topics,” WeiWei is just as relevant, if not more so than any other artist residing in the contemporary global spheres. However, most evidently, WeiWei’s absence at the 2013 Venetian Biennale Art Exhibition speaks volumes to the political implications of his works. That is – he is so controversial and so poignant in his political commentary that his own well-being is often called into question (perhaps one of the underlying themes of his S.A.C.R.E.D. piece). His work makes people ask questions, which should be a measure of success by any artist’s standards. Furthermore, being invited by multiple countries’ pavilions as a foreign contributor to showcase his own work is another hallmark of his successes.
Passage 4: WeiWei’s political dissidence toward the Chinese government can be traced hereditarily through is family’s bloodline; When WeiWei was just a year old, he and his family were sentenced to labor camps in Beidahuang, Heilongjiang as a result of his father’s poetic disapprovals and outspoken criticisms of the Chinese Communist government. Later, they were exiled in 1961 to the town of Shihezi, Xinjiang where they resided for another sixteen years. Upon the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, Ai and his family moved to Beijing following their many years in forced labor. Following the political exile of his early years, WeiWei was able to further his artistic horizons by attending the Parsons School of Design and Art Students League of New York while living in New York City from 1981-1993. During this decade or-so, WeiWei experimented with conceptual art by re-appropriating readymade objects and other various forms of creative expressions including, but not limited to, poetry, photography, and gambling. In 2008, WeiWei collaborated with Swiss architects as the lead artistic consultant for the Beijing National Stadium during the 2008 summer Olympic Games. Finally, in 2011, WeiWei disappeared for 81 days only to be released later by the Chinese government under extraordinarily abject circumstances.