I came across the intimate portraits of Elinor Carucci today via TIME Magazine. Sometimes her photos work, sometimes they don't, but conceptually I find them interesting. Many critics view her work as a compare/contrast with that of Sally Mann. Certainly, there are some among them that skirt the edge. What I'm curious about are the self-portraits. I haven't found much yet detailing her method or approach, but here are some interviews where she discusses broader questions about her life and work.
With an impending European visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Ai’s release served a strategic purpose and came after weeks of intense international pressure. Both Britain and Germany had lobbied vociferously on Ai’s behalf; on the façade of the Tate Modern museum in London, huge letters spelled out “Release Ai Weiwei,” and at the recent art fair in Basel, Switzerland, visitors perused avant-garde artwork, wearing paper masks of his face. “They just had to free him,” says a European ambassador to China, requesting anonymity. Otherwise, “this would have been a trip about Ai Weiwei and nothing else.
The first tightening came when Chinese security forces began to "tidy" the city in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and its thousands of international visitors. Among those tidied away was Hu Jia, an Aids activist who concluded that the authorities' lack of respect for Aids patients and orphans was rooted in a disregard of human rights. He was imprisoned for fear he might embarrass the authorities during the Games.
It was pretty minor stuff. Among others arrested were people protesting at being forced from their homes for Games redevelopment. Two elderly women were given "re-education" sentences merely for requesting permission to demonstrate. In the months that followed there was low-level harassment of lawyers who acted for such victims.
But it was with the award of the Nobel prize to Liu Xiaobo last October that things moved up a gear. Beijing reacted angrily, blocking all foreign news broadcasts into China.
I was relieved to read of Ai Weiwei's provisional release today. The dissident artist has spent three months in confinement for unspecified charges from Chinese authorities. Will post more about AWW later today.
I'm at Art HK, Asia's leading art fair, and the one-finger salute is from the 2007 sculpture "Marble Arm" by outspoken artist-activist Ai Weiwei. As we all should know by now, Ai was detained by Beijing authorities almost two months ago in an ongoing campaign against Chinese activists. Ai has since been accused of tax evasion.
"Marble Arm" is linked to a series of provocative snapshots featuring Ai raising his middle finger to various symbols of power from the White House to Tiananmen Square. On reserve, it has a prospective buyer who is willing to pay $280,000 for the work.
And today, that marble middle finger is greeting prospective buyers and curious visitors at Art HK's Galerie Urs Meile exhibition space.
But it is a lonely protest. Among the 260 galleries at the international art fair, "Marble Arm" is the only work by Ai on display.
There are a few "Where is Ai Weiwei?" freebie pins and t-shirts available from Galerie Urs Meile and two other dealers at the fair. But for the most part, at Asian's largest art fair, China's most well-known artist is noticeably missing.
Ai Weiwei may be languishing in Chinese detention, but the influence of the prominent artist and social activist has permeated Hong Kong's burgeoning art scene, from glitzy art fairs to edgy street art.
The cavernous halls of the ART HK International art fair straddling the iconic harbour are filled with a blitz of works, from the nature-inspired art of Iceland's Olafur Eliasson to male nude photographs by Zhang Huan.
But tucked inside one of nearly 300 galleries cramming the stark white spaces, a single marble sculpture of a life-sized arm and hand giving an unseen person the middle finger has gained widespread attention for its particular poignancy...
While China's artists have largely been silenced over the plight of Ai, who was detained by authorities in April for evading a "huge amount" of taxes amid a clampdown on dissent, a tenacious and angry band of young artists in Hong Kong have emerged as a major force rallying to Ai's cause.