A year after Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was slapped with bail conditions, following an 81-day detention by Chinese authorities, the prominent activist and artist has been freed from those shackles, but there’s no rejoicing because of what may come next.
Reuters reports today that the artist is is still barred from travel, though he left his house for the first time in a year without having to report his whereabouts to police, and he could potentially face bigamy, pornography and other charges.
The pornography charge comes from a seemingly harmless photograph, titled “One Tiger, Eight Breasts” (2011) [pictured above], that depicts the nude artist sitting among four nude women. Hyperallergic covered the controversy late last year when it appeared that the Chinese authorities may make the image an issue for the artist. What was unexpected about the incident was the response by the artist’s supporters, who posted over a hundred photos of themselves nude on Sina Weibo and Twitter as an act of solitary.
In the Reuters report, Ai Weiwei denied the charge of bigamy as he is very open about his sexual relations. The artist is married to one woman, Lu Qing, while he maintains a relationship with a girlfriend with whom he has a three-year-old son. This arrangement is discussed quite openly in the award-winning documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry that was released this year.
Hyperallergic reached out to Alison Klayman, director of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, for comment on today’s news and received the following statement:
“This week the whole Never Sorry team has been glued to Twitter as we waited to find out whether the ‘bail conditions’ imposed on Weiwei this year would be lifted. This is not the news we had hoped for. Ai Weiwei’s extended travel ban and the continued threat of various unsubstantiated charges against him are simply prolonging the state of limbo that he has been in since his detention. It shows the authorities are not ready to let Ai Weiwei live as he did during the years that Never Sorry was filmed. Yet he is clearly not deterred. He continues to inspire all of us to use creativity and courage to express ourselves and bring about the change we want to see in the world.”
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is slated to open in theaters on Friday, July 27 in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, DC and Bethesda, Maryland.
After receiving the news about his bail, Ai Weiwei penned a touching, if defiant, op-ed in today’s Guardian in which he asks a number of provocative questions, including:
“Police told me today that they have lifted my bail conditions. I am happy that the year is up, but also feel sorry about it. I have no sense of why I lost my freedom and if you don’t know how you lost something, how can you protect it?”
“I started to ask: why can’t they solve minor problems rather than have them blow up? Of course, no one is listening. You talk to the wall and the stones. Every time you try to correct something, or demand a clear answer, your situation becomes more miserable.”
He goes as far as stating that he is “more convinced than ever of the need to stand up to China’s monstrous machine.”
This week, Ai Weiwei was barred from attending his tax trial and his legal consultant temporarily disappeared when he was called in for questioning by the authorities. The politically volatile nightmare for Ai Weiwei continues.