Torch has made Beijing blind: artist

Sian Powell – The Australian

Copyright The Australian
April 30, 2008
CHINESE artist Ai Weiwei spoke out like a true rebel in Sydney
yesterday, criticising Beijing’s adoration of the Olympic Games and the
torch relay.
“I don’t see myself as a dissident artist, I see them as a dissident
government,” the Beijing-based artist said at the opening of a major
installation of beams and tables called Through at the Sherman
Contemporary Art Foundation.
Courting an official reprimand, he also took aim at the state-run
Chinese newspapers, which continually referred to the Games as the “Holy
Games” and the torch relay as the “Holy torch”.
Holiness, he said, wasn’t even a communist concept. “I think they (the
Chinese Government) encourage nationalist behaviour,” he added,
referring to the torch relay.
“It’s blind; it’s sentiment without a clear intellectual concept. It’s
crazy, what they’re so excited about.”
An internationally esteemed artist, Ai helped design the Beijing Olympic
Stadium, now usually referred to as the Birds Nest Stadium.
He hasn’t been invited to the opening ceremony, but he said he didn’t
care. “It’s such a bureaucratic society we have, they don’t even dare to
invite someone like me,” he said. “The architect is nothing to such an
official society.”
China has never taken kindly to criticism, but Ai refuses to self-censor
too much.
“I think I could get into trouble because all the journalists ask me
these questions,” he said.
Told he didn’t have to answer, he replied: “That’s not my style.”
He is ready for a stern official reaction. “I’ve been waiting for that
moment. Everybody warns me of this. If nothing happens, it will be a big
Still, he said he was not sorry he was involved in the design of the
stadium. “It’s for the people and for the city. The stadium is good work.”
Ai is in Australia for a week, with an exhibition called Under
Construction at the Campbelltown Arts Centre in Sydney. It features a
work commissioned for the centre titled Marble Chair.
He said he was surprised at how slowly China was changing – yet he
agreed that massive changes had occurred over the past decade. “You can
talk about sex, you can talk about anything, society is so free. There’s
no strong moral discipline.”
But he said politics was the exception, with much forbidden.
“I hope China will learn a bit from this event (the Olympics), and
really try to rethink its position and its own values,” Ai said, adding
that he hoped values such as democracy, freedom and human rights would
begin to take hold.
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