Ai Weiwei Continues Scathing Critique of State Power In Original Music Video

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The infamous Chinese artist and political activist, Ai Weiwei, explores brand new territory – music – with a video commenting on his detainment and 81-day stay in prison. Weiwei was arrested by the Chinese government in 2011, supposedly for tax evasion, as part of a crackdown on political dissent. Much of his subsequent work has been inspired by the detainment and earlier this year, a play by Howard Brenton recalled the events. Now, Weiwei’s new video for his heavy metal song Dumbass offers a more direct comment on the reality of his imprisonment. The music video depicts two emotionless prison guards who watch Ai as he eats, sleeps, paces, showers, and even sits on the toilet, in a cleverly constructed metaphor designed to mock state power.

"This is dedicated to all those people who do not have the opportunity to raise their voice, who will never be able to raise their voices," Ai said about the video. "This is not just one generation. In the past 60 years there have been innumerable amounts of people who have been killed or taken away from their homes, even tortured to death."

The vocal parts of the song, entirely in Mandarin, are performed by Weiwei himself. The artist has said that he finds music therapeautic and helpful in finding relief from the memory of his arrest. The music was composed by Zuoxiao Zuzhou, a Beijing-based heavy-metal artist and friend of Weiwei's, who has also experienced several run-ins with the government. The video was shot in Beijing with the help of renowned cinematographer Christopher Doyle, who has shot films for Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai, among other renowned filmmakers.


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