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19. 12. 11. - 15:47

Ai on his everlasting battle

Ai Wei Wei has explained why he refuses to stop highlighting problems in his home country.

The celebrated Chinese artist – who was in detention for nearly three months after being arrested last April, told Austria’s Kurier newspaper yesterday (Sun): "I would consider myself dead – caught in a human body, but still dead. (...) The situation I am in might be intimidating but I am not afraid."

Asked why he was not worried about sanctions for speaking to a foreign newspaper, Ai said: "I read the Chinese constitution only recently. I know my rights. The accusations (of tax evasion) brought forward against me are not political subjects. Remaining silent would be like admitting to the crime of tax evasion – which I never committed."

Ai – who drew the ire of political leaders in China by making aware of the lack of democracy and human rights in the Asian country – said about the house arrest he currently must live under: "There are nine different restrictions. I struggle remembering all of them."

Ai said that Chinese authorities revealed the true reason why he was arrested during his time in custody. "They said quite plainly that it was all about my criticism of the government. ‘You are speaking with the international press too much.’ (...) They raised pornography accusations and tax evasion claims but implicated that it was their goal to destruct me and my reputation. ‘We want the people to think you are a liar.’ I was shocked," the sculptor and architect said.

Ai added: "They are apparently wondering about what to do with this artist who keeps causing a stir. They opted for measures which are frequently used to destroy people: beating them up, wrecking their homes, locking them away. (...) Others might succumb to these actions."

Ai told the Kurier he would "become part of the crime" if he gave up. He pointed out that around 30,000 people sent him money within a week to pay a part of the sum he allegedly failed to transfer in taxes initially. Speaking about his time in preventive detention, the artist said he went through "extreme experiences of survival".

A fantastic exhibit focusing on Ai’s achievements as photographer are currently on display at the Kunsthaus in Graz (museum-joanneum.at), Styria. The exhibition, called "Interlacing", was created by the Fotomuseum of Winterthur in Switzerland. It also features video installations of Ai but mainly consists of snapshots and artistic images taken by the artist in his homeland and all over the world.

A considerable number of photographs were taken in New York City, USA, where he lived for many years. The various images reflect personal experiences of the artist but also document public events and political repression.

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