Video interview with Oscar Shortlisted doc director Alison Klayman, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Thursday, 6 December, 2012

Alison Never Sorry interview - Youtube thumbnail compositeAi Weiwei carrying an Oscar on Facebook

The insightful, fun, and sometimes deadly serious documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (艾未未:道歉你妹; title in Taiwan 艾未未:草泥馬) has been Oscar shortlisted from 126 films down to 15, coming out ahead of films like “The Central Park Five” by the legendary Ken Burns et al, and “Head Games” by Steve James (director of the amazing Hoop Dreams).

Alison Klayman, director of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, was very nice and cool to do her first post-Oscar-shortlist video interview with me on the day after she came back from a Bangkok film festival trip. Here is my video interview with Alison.

Video interview with Oscar Shortlisted Alison Klayman, director of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry trailer (Official selection Sundance 2012 Film Festival)

I just noticed on the back wall in the following film still, the pictures are the concept drawings that lead to the Remembering (2009), an installation for the Façade of the House of German Art.

Ai Weiwei Never Sorry - Film Still

Golden Ai Weiwei Oscar

Alison and I talked about the middle finger salute in the interview. To me, it is a show of defiance to the powerful, be it the one-party ruled Chinese government or any other governments or powerful institutions.

Weiwei middle-finger art Read the rest of this entry »


TED & TEDx talk videos – My baker’s dozen of favourite videos

Saturday, 24 November, 2012

Inspired by all the TEDxHongKong chatters I had last night with some attendees, I’ve finally done my version of top nth TED videos that inspired me. So here is my baker’s dozen (12+1) of TED and TEDx talk videos that I love and enjoy over the years. Some are popular and some are not.

May be we share a few common ones and we can chat about them in the comments. And if you see a few new ones that you haven’t watched, thats cool too and we can chat in the comments. And may be most important of all, please do share some of your fav! I love to check them out and hear why you love them!

In no particular order, the following are my baker’s dozen (12+1) tweets of my favourite TED & TEDx videos (with links added):

#1 tweet) In no specific order: #TED Malcolm Gladwell, UT alum & best selling author’s Choice, happiness & spaghetti sauce is great

#2 tweet) #TED Malcolm Gladwell‘s “The strange tale of the Norden bombsight” talk is better but unloved because of the harsh message

#3 tweet) A great #TEDxCaltech talk on Richard Feynman by Leonard Susskind. If u never heard of Nobel Prize winning funny man physicist Feynman, try this, you may start to love him.

#4 tweet) #TED Susan Cain is so cool & insightful. Here “The power of introverts” is a must watch for fellow introverts (me INTJ) Read the rest of this entry »


Why the Chinese government can always win in court? The “tax case” of Ai Weiwei @aiww 艾未未

Wednesday, 20 June, 2012

Q: Why the Chinese government can always win in court?

A: The Chinese government can always lock up or magically make your lawyer “unreachable”. In addition, they can send police to block you from attending your own court hearing. And as if these are not enough, the judges will always follow the wishes of the central government to ensure prompt victory by the governments.

Guardian June 20, 2012, “Ai Weiwei barred from court hearing by Chinese police – Dissident artist says police warned him to stay away from court hearing on company’s lawsuit against Beijing tax authorities

CNN June 20, 2012, “China dissident Ai Weiwei harassed by police, he says

Guardian June 20, 2012, “Ai Weiwei’s lawyer missing as artist is warned away from tax hearing – Chinese dissident being told not to attend court as it considers his challenge to a fine for alleged unpaid taxes

Bloomberg June 19, 2012, “Dissident Artist Ai Weiwei Says Police Block Him From Court

Reuters, June 20, 2012 “Chinese police warn Ai Weiwei to avoid tax hearing

***

Update: I am thrilled that Ai Weiwei retweeted this post and I am ready to see Chinese spambots starting to flood my Twitter stream now!  At the same time, I asked & replied with a serious and fundamental questions/concerns for foreigners and foreign businesses “@aiww Sad u can’t attend your tax case in court + they “disappear” your lawyer. How can foreigners or int. businesses trust Chinese courts?


China’s Ai Weiwei 4 Self-Surveillance Cameras ordered to shutdown, Beijing Gov’s 15 Surveillance Cameras still running

Friday, 6 April, 2012

WeiWeiCam - bedroom pix

Chinese original (see below for English translation): “艺术家艾未未在其位于北京草场地258号的办公室、卧室、院子分别安装了4个摄像头,通过weiweicam.com 网站直播日常生活。2012年4月2日19点开始,至4月4日18:09分被迫关闭,进行了47小时9分钟,点击520万次,下载100GB。”

English translation: “Chinese artist Ai Weiwei installed four webcams in his office, bedroom, and yard at his Beijing studio (258 Fake) live-streaming his daily life on http://weiweicam.com The live-streaming started on 19:00 April 2nd, 2012 (one year anniversary of his illegal “disappearance” by Chinese government). The cameras were forced to shutdown on 18:09 on April 4th. The broadcast lasted 47 hours 9 minutes, 5.2 million visits, 100GB data downloaded.
The following are 73 screen captures of the live broadcast.”

When the Beijing Chinese government has 15 video cameras set outside of Ai Weiwei‘s studio/home recording all the comings and goings of Ai and his guests, it is a bit absurd that the four self-surveillance cameras installed by Ai inside his studio/home were ordered to be shutdown. I very much agree with Twitter user’s sentiment.

“It’s fine for them to set up cameras to look at you, but it’s not fine for you to set up cameras to help them look at you,” one Twitter user wrote in Chinese after the cameras went down. “Absurd in the extreme.”” [HT WSJ]

CNN has a video interview with Ai. BBC has an audio interview with Ai. Also see reports from WSJ, Guardian, France 24NYTLA Times, MSNBC.

Only in an absurd world you will see any government afraid of its people singing its national anthem! Well, here I’ve set pictures from Ai Weiwei’s 4 Self-Surveillance footage to he People’s Republic of China‘s national anthem “March of the Volunteers 义勇军进行曲“. Feel free to read the attached lyrics.

Ai Weiwei Self-Surveillance-HD set to March of the Volunteers (PRC national anthem)

*** English Translation of “March of the Volunteers” via Wikipedia:
Arise! All those who don’t want to be slaves!
Let our flesh and blood forge our new Great Wall!
As the Chinese people have arrived at their most perilous time.
Every person is forced to expel his very last cry.
Arise! Arise! Arise!
Our million hearts beating as one,
Brave the enemy’s fire, March on!
Brave the enemy’s fire, March on!
March on! March on! On!

*** Chinese Simplified original
起来!不愿做奴隶的人们!
把我们的血肉,筑成我们新的长城!
中华民族到了最危险的时候,
每个人被迫着发出最后的吼声。
起来!起来!起来!
我们万众一心,
冒着敌人的炮火,前进!
冒着敌人的炮火,前进!
前进!前进!进!


Best Defence Against the 50 Cent Army if you support @aiww 帮艾未未时,如何应付五毛党

Wednesday, 8 February, 2012

What is 50 Cent Army (五毛党)? According to Wikipedia50 Cent Army/Party is a term for (emphasis added with minor edit),

Internet commentators (网络评论员)) hired by the government of the People’s Republic of China (both local and central) or the Communist Party to post comments favorable towards party policies in an attempt to shape and sway public opinion on various Internet message boards.

How did I get myself tangled with the 50 Cent Army (五毛党)? Well, I’ve written about Ai Weiwei (艾未未 @aiww) once in a while since I think he is a great Chinese artist/political activist. Recently, when I tweeted something about Weiwei that got retweeted by @aiww, I would get Twitter mentioned by one of the 50 Cent Army (in this case Twitter user 20uI30a)!

OK, the best defence against the 50 Cent Army (五毛党) is to ignore them. Yes, ignore them! Don’t waste your energy, just ignore them!

In my case, so far I’ve taken one step further to confirm the offending Twitter accounts actually have the telltale signs of 50 Cent Army and I then will block the user and report them for spam. Of course, my act of blocking and reporting the accounts for spam is a complete waste of time! Why? Because these type spam Twitter accounts are disposable accounts! They are automatically created. Once these accounts did their job of wasting your time/energy to read and reply, etc the posters had already moved on to a brand new spam account. The spammers are “smart” and fully expected these accounts to be suspended. So after posting a few tweets (127), they will stop using an account and move on.

So save yourself the time, just ignore the 50 Cent Army. I’ve wasted my time to write this post so that you don’t have to waste your time. :)

P.S. Part of me is sad for people in the 50 Cent Army but then thinking they get 50 cents per post, it makes me laugh at the topsy turvy world of China.


Middle Fingers Salute to the Absentee Ai Weiwei at Sundance 2012

Sunday, 29 January, 2012

Pictures of Middle Fingers Salute to the Absentee Ai Weiwei as Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry won U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Defiance at Sundance 2012. RT@aiww:指天骂地 RT @denghaoyang:中指森林。@aiww RT @AWWNeverSorry:昨夜 圣丹斯颁奖给@aliklay @AWWNeverSorry @aiww现场,表彰他们’道歉你妹’的反抗精神

For the record, two film reviews from industry respected sources. Excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter review (emphasis added),

“The filming is much of the point: Like Warhol 2.0, Ai documents his surroundings obsessively and views Twitter as a necessity. Through a constant online presence, he has become “Teacher Ai” to a legion of followers, and some of his most important art/politics hybrid projects — like one intent on uncovering facts about the Sichuan earthquake that the government wants buried — rely on their participation. As we spend time with him in his studios and home, Ai seems authentically driven by a need for more freedom than China is currently offering.”

Excerpt from Variety review (emphasis added),

“Rather than dwelling too heavily on his museum shows, much of the film expands upon Ai’s key tweets of the past few years. Hence, the incidents that take precedence include the wrenchingly unjust demolition of his Shanghai artist’s studio and his confrontational attempts to seek justice for a police raid that left him with a bleeding head wound — both major events for Klayman to have caught oncamera.

Among Ai’s better-known work is a series of photographs that feature his extended middle finger superimposed over Tiananmen Square and other iconic sites. Whereas many contemporary artists question authority via their work, Ai does not confine his criticism of hegemony to galleries and museums. Instead, he takes the assault directly to the powers that be, which in turn expands the scope of his work to a form of pseudo-performance art, providing Klayman with a handful of lively “happenings” to include in her film, such as Ai’s heated confrontation with the officer who allegedly beat him.

Though the docu provides occasional insights into Ai’s personality, China serves as the more interesting character here, a complex adversary capable of inspiring a range of creative reactions from the artist. By opening with a metaphor about exceptional cat that has learned to open doors, Klayman stresses the one-in-a-billion odds of someone like Ai existing. The film is a good start, but such an important artist deserves a more rigorous portrait.”

As I tweeted, I am very much looking forward to watch Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. Alison has captured some very important moments and stories in Ai Weiwei‘s life and it is about time more of us get to know him.

Jan 30, 2012 update: LA Times, “Ai Weiwei documentary gets middle-finger salute at Sundance


Ai Weiwei’s “Sunflower Seeds Party”

Friday, 27 January, 2012

Here is an excerpt from the insightful New Yorker article “AI WEIWEI AT HOME, IN ABSENTIA” by Evan Osnos,

“Ai’s cell phone rumbled and he answered the call. He smiled. Mary Boone, the gallery owner, was on the line. It was late at night in New York, but she wanted to tell him how his show was going. On the floor of her Chelsea space on West 24th Street, she had Ai’s hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds, three million of them, which had been crafted by ceramic artisans in the pottery town of Jingdezhen. (The show is open until February 4th.) They are part of an ocean of seeds, one hundred million in all, that he originally unveiled in a 2010 installation at the Tate Modern in London. At the Tate, they formed a vast gray swamp, filling the cavernous Turbine Hall, but in New York, after two eventful years, they have taken on a different meaning. They are arranged in a rectangle with severe, angled corners. In the Times, Roberta Smith wrote that the “unruly ocean has been downsized to something more like a reflecting pool. It also suggests a kind of memorial plinth, a monument to the palpable absence of Mr. Ai.”

As is often the case for Ai Weiwei, his work and his life have become hard to differentiate. The seeds have found their way into the tax case. “When the seeds began to show, people started to ask: Can we have some? I responded very casually, ‘Whoever wants some, just give me an address and I’ll send them to you.’ We received about a thousand requests. And, since then, it has become a kind of movement. We’ve sent out several hundred thousand. This is amazing. They call it the ‘Sunflower Seeds Party.’ The party can be read as a party or a Party. And young people love it. They say, ‘The girl at school I loved for so long, and I could never really speak to her, I made an earring out of a seed and gave it to her.’ Another one said, he gave it to his parents. One said the seed will be the first gift to my unborn kid. And someone else said, by the year two-thousand-and-something, the seeds will have life coming out of them. They call them seeds of freedom. It’s very interesting that people need something to carry their fantasy.”

Online, the seeds became a proxy for Ai himself. “They talk about seeds and it moved like a wave. They couldn’t talk about me and they couldn’t talk about the government, but when they talked about seeds, nobody could do anything about it, because they aren’t talking about anything—just sunflower seeds!””


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