I’m not really sure what to think of dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s new post on the Daily Beast. It feels like the work of a frustrated artist who is coming to terms with the notion of exile.
The idea is certainly not new to Ai, whose father was exiled by China’s communist regime decades ago, but I wonder if seeing the impact of exile on others does little to prepare yourself for the same experience. If understanding exile is an important part of the modern (and contemporary) condition, it is also one of the greatest sources for its pain, alienation and anger in the contemporary world.
We all know that Ai’s days in China are numbered, unless something major happens to the political state of the nation, but the following passage of his post makes me wonder that even if he gets out in one piece at what price?
The strongest character of those spaces is that they’re completely cut off from your memory or anything you’re familiar with. You’re in total isolation. And you don’t know how long you’re going to be there, but you truly believe they can do anything to you. There’s no way to even question it. You’re not protected by anything. Why am I here? Your mind is very uncertain of time. You become like mad. It’s very hard for anyone. Even for people who have strong beliefs.
Somewhat related: There’s a big debate about the value of social media during revolutions. There’s new thinking on the matter to suggest that by turning off social media during unrest (such as what happened in Egypt), governments are amplifying protests and causing more problems than if they left the networks and the internet alone to placate people.