One thing the detention and disappearance of artist Ai Weiwei by Chinese police shows, says Philippe Verge, director of the Dia Art Foundation and former chief curator at the Walker Art Center, is fear. In an email, Vergne offers Eyeteeth readers this statement:
When a regime imprisons its thinkers and its artists, when a regime exercises censorship, it demonstrates fear. Not so much fear of the art or of the artists but the fear of what these regimes have become, fear of losing control, fear of what is different, fear of the others, fear of questions that might force them to reconsider their values. Such regimes fear the barbarians that they have become.Ai has been missing since Sunday. Chinese authorities have not indicated whether he's in custody, but instead said via a state-owned newspaper early today that Ai is a "maverick" who will "pay a price" for his activities.
Imprisoning an artist is a tragedy, and paradoxically only reveals the power of art. Ai Weiwei‘s detention is both tragedy and his triumph over barbarism.
Vergne is among many art and governmental figures speaking out against Ai's detention.
Update 04.15.11: Vergne expands on these ideas in a new piece at ArtInfo.com.