3 from '11: Ai Weiwei, Nadia Plesner, John Yang

With 2011 gone, I'll spare you the self-serving top-10 list. But in the spirit of self-reflection, I have been looking back at the year at Eyeteeth. What I noticed: the most-read stories weren't really the best ones. And the best ones weren't really... ones.

So, if you'll indulge me in a quick wrap-up of 2011, here's the three topics I feel best about from the past 12 months.

Ai Weiwei: You'll recall that the Chinese artist's detention and captivity for 81 days in early spring took up a lot of space here. The vigils, open letters, and street-art his detention sparked. The responses from art-world figures to it (my favorite: Dia director Philippe Vergne's ballsy reaction, which he later expanded on for ArtInfo.com). The Change.org petition that was targeted by Chinese hackers (a fact I was the first to confirm). The way Ai's arrest and imprisonment without charge drew attention to other artists and dissidents who've been detained or disappeared in China. Anyone who's read this blog for awhile should be able to see why it captured me so: Free expression and the ability of artists to bear witness to social problems and imagine different worlds are recurring themes here.

Nadia Plesner: Ultra-profitable and ultra-sensitive, Louis Vuitton tried to silence Danish artist Plesner this year, for artistic appropriation that was clearly fair use. Her gigantic painting Darfurnica included a likeness of an LV Audra bag slung on the arm of a Darfuri boy--Plesner's rather overt way of chastising the developed world for being focused on celebrity and consumerism at the expense of people dying in the region of Sudan. Although Plesner's motive wasn't profit, Vuitton wanted to collect 5,000 euros for each day the image remained on her website. At the Hague, however, the company's copyright infringment case was tossed out, the court  finding that "the importance of Plesner (freedom of expression through her work) outweighs the importance of Vuitton (protection of property)." "Today is a great day for art," Plesner told Eyeteeth following the ruling. "Now we have won back our freedom to make reference to the modern society we live in."

John Yang: Biking around Minneapolis in July, I spotted a graffiti stencil that looked familiar. I'd seen the image of a sleepwalking boy two places: spraypainted on the wall of an art squat in Berlin in 2005 and on the sleeve of a Sigur Ros album. Digging into the image, I unearthed a curious story. The stencil is based on a photo by the late John Yang, who shot it in France during a tour of duty that included time playing with the 7th Army Symphony, as I discovered after contacting Yang's archives and connecting with his daughter, Naomi, a designer and founding member of the band Galaxie 500. She told me that the band Sigur Ros used a stencil version of the image, Blindman's Bluff, on its album ( ) -- but her dad never got officially credited or compensated. I love this story not because I want to stick it to Sigur Ros -- although it seems like they could stand some of that -- but because it suggests there are similarly deep stories around many of the images we find around us every day. I'm glad I spotted this rabbit hole on the side of a boxcar passing through Minneapolis and dove right in.

Happy 2012, all.

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