“Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case”
Ai Weiwei, world famous Chinese artist, had a lawsuit thrust upon him by the Chinese government and he has been struggling with it ever since. After 81 days of solitary detention world famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was put under house arrest. He suffers from sleeping disorder and memory loss, 18 cameras are monitoring his studio and home, police agents follow his every move, and heavy restrictions from the Chinese authorities weigh him down. Journalists, the art world and his family all want a piece of him and on top of that he is met with a gigantic lawsuit from the Chinese government, soon to be named ‘The Fake Case’. During the year on probation he found new ways to provoke and challenge the mighty powers of the Chinese authorities in his fight for human rights. Ai Weiwei strongly believes that China is ready for change. And he will do everything to make it happen.
This Danish documentary is, in effect, a sequel to “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”. When released from confinement, Ai Weiwei was asked many questions by the media and we see that he really tried to practice equanimity in the face of a year of house arrest and a fine of nearly $1.5 million for tax evasion. Now, as before, he sees these charges as a blatant attempt to oppress and humiliate him in the public eye.
Once he was home, he got the last laugh—he met with reporters and continued to send his art abroad. He has always pushed the limits, as did the rest of his family. While he was serving his house arrest we got to see his imagination at work in this film. We also see how clever he was by confiscating an ashtray and declaring it a piece of art when he sees police spying on him.
What we really see here though is the difficulties that governments face when they cut off the imagination of an artist. Weiwei predicts that if the Chinese government does not change their ways, revolution could be on the horizon.
If you have ever wondered went on when legendary and iconic Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was arrested in China, filmmaker Andreas Johnsen is here to show you. We see Ai Weiwei laid bare during his house arrest that began on June 22, 2011. He was arrested on pretence of being responsible for economic crimes.
His arrest was responded to internationally and political leaders called for his release alongside sustained protests from the art world. Rather than explain the artist, this film chooses to explore him. We get a meditative examination of a man with a mindset that causes him to speak out against injustice and to expose the world of global art. He’s a seminal artist who works in as many mediums as he can. He openly avers that human loss catastrophes are being brushed under the rug of the Chinese governments global policies. His key pieces of work have spoken volumes to modern Chinese society and captured the imaginations of the countries his exhibitions and imagery have traveled. His influential work spans generations of commentary on modern Chinese society and his humanitarian ideals. He was the central architect on the bird’s nest stadium for the 2010 Beijing Olympics but denounced the Olympics in Beijing due to the mass removal of nearby housing for the event taking place. It’s said that his art and his activism crosses boundaries and is often indistinguishable. He uses a great deal of strong imagery so that he can make cultural statements on China’s history.
An earlier documentary that I cited earlier was about his life and his works. Here we see that his life is dangerous and things have become different, more difficult, for him post-arrest. Previously fearless and full bodied in his approach to his art and activism, he now seems to use a sense of caution in his forward planning that hangs like a dark cloud above his head. He has learned that exploring what really happened has consequences. Yet he still has the desire to speak out and create art.
This is almost an unbelievable story as we watch Ai Weiwei in his search for truth. The film takes place mostly behind the walls of his artistic headquarters at 258 Fake in Caochangdi, a walled compound overrun by cats where Ai holds court with foreign journalists and entertains visitors.
Although Ai has been forbidden from exhibiting his work in China, he carries on making new pieces for exhibition abroad. The film observes as Ai alternates between the daily setbacks of life under constant police surveillance and the ongoing creative impulse, including the preparation of “S.A.C.R.E.D” a massive sculptural project consisting of six boxes representing aspects of his confinement. At one point, he catches the men sent to spy on him, steals their ashtray and repurposes it as a work of art — perhaps the clearest sign that Ai has become the subject of his own art, and a compelling reason for such a behind-the-scenes documentary to exist.
It indeed seems that Ai Weiwei’s career as an artist is secondary to his role of social activist. He has galvanized China’s younger generation toward reform and perhaps even revolution. Though his bogus arrest was clearly intended to quiet his growing influence, it appears to have had the opposite effect. When he was faced with a fine of nearly $1.5 million, Ai was astonished by the public’s support of his cause, as demonstrated by little pink paper airplanes sent over the walls of his studio (each one a 100-yuan note neatly folded and offered in solidarity), along with a flood of anonymous letters that arrive bearing donations.
Here we him physically transformed, the big belly diminished, his beard longer than before, and yet he is more determined than ever to challenge the fraudulent system in power.