Ai Weiwei, Fairytale, 2007
While Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is free, it's not the kind of freedom I'd want: He can't speak to the media for one year, he can't travel, he hasn't been back on Twitter or his blog, and you can bet he'll be monitored non-stop by "China's all-seeing eye," to use Naomi Klein's words. Noting that more than 500 people associated with democracy movements have been detained in the last four months, Newsweek reports that "China’s persecution of dissidents and political enemies of the state hasn’t been this ruthless in decades."
To mark the 100th day since his detention by Beijing police -- and to express solidarity with Ai and the many unnamed artists, journalists, bloggers and dissidents who are still imprisoned in China -- the Walker is hosting a 1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei event on Tuesday, July 12. Like the April protests worldwide, the event takes its inspiration from Ai's 2007 work Fairytale: 1001 Qing Dynasty Wooden Chairs — an installation at Documenta 12 consisted of 1001 empty late Ming and Qing Dynasty wooden chairs. The Walker asks people to drop off chairs at the Walker's Open Field anytime tomorrow to be assembled with other chairs for a 6 pm observation, which will be kicked off with remarks by museum director Olga Viso.
"We believe that no artistic voice should ever be silenced in any society," said Viso, who also spoke out when Ai was still detained. "We envision the chairs on the Open Field as a reminder of artists across the world -- artists we may not even know --- who have been lost and who face repression and censorship every day. Weiwei's art and his recent detainment have brought this reality into disturbing and important focus."
The Walker will be screening Alison Klayman's 18-minute Frontline segment, "Who's Afraid of Ai Weiwei?" throughout the day. It notes that it also plans to screen Klayman's documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry at the museum after it is completed next spring.
The Walker notes that museum admission is free all day tomorrow because of the event, and asks that chairs be dropped off during the day and picked up between 6:15 and 8. Viso speaks at 6.