Ai Weiwei’s art has long protested his government’s oppression of its people. His tweets are no different. Ai was banned from Chinese Twitter (Sina Weibo) and his blog was shut down by Chinese forces. Never one to be silent, or apologetic, Ai’s latest work transforms his prolific social media bleeps into a beautiful rice paper artwork called An Archive.
Part of the current exhibition Go East: The Gene and Brian Sherman Contemporary Asian Art Collection, at Sydney’s Art Gallery of NSW—which investigates the connection between art and protest through works that include artists from Japan, Tibet, Indonesia and the Philippines—Ai’s An Archive was a special commission that saw him collaborate with traditional Chinese makers to translate the conversation from pixels to paper; every bleep painstakingly designed onto its own page.
The work is entirely in Mandarin, but Ai’s motive is universal and, not surprisingly, he has a few things to say on the topic. We spoke to him about An Archive, Go East and the art of social media.
The Creators Project: Do you consider your social media presence, your tweets and your blog posts, part of your art?
Ai Weiwei: I consider all of my expressions a part of my art. Sometimes it takes a traditional form or language and, at other times, it requires the creation of a new language. However, they are all the same. Art is to express yourself through a medium in order to successfully communicate with another.
Why did you decide to make An Archive?
Archiving is a very important act. We look in the mirror otherwise we forget who we are. Similarly, archiving is a way to look at traces of what has happened to and around us. It is a chance to re-examine our behaviour in order to better understand ourselves.
Can you tell us a bit about the work?
An Archive relates to my writings on the Internet, focusing on my writings on Twitter between 2009 and 2013. Twitter is a very interesting medium. It is not one that records the past, but one that forms in the present condition, with real connections to the future. It is so intimate but, at the same time, so broadly connects us to others. Humans have never had this in our history. By changing the way we communicate, it changes our understanding of ourselves and others. That gives a new definition to our society, to democracy, civil rights, and humanity as well. Although they are just my writings on Twitter, they relate to certain events and the discussions between readers and myself. It is like water flowing in front of us. There is a need to record it like a novel or like a piece of history.
For more on this fascinating artist go to http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/blog/ai-weiwei-says-twitter-is-art for the complete interview.