Artist and activist Ai Weiwei published an opinion piece yesterday in the Wall Street Journal commenting on Google’s decision to cease censorship of its Chinese search engine.
Beijing based Weiwei lived in the United States for over ten years, having studied at New York City’s Parsons School of Design before relocating back to China in 1993. He became one of the founding members of Beijing’s now legendary EastVillage artists’ community, along with now prominent figures such as Zhang Huan and Rong Rong. Since that time Weiwei has established himself in the international art world with work in Documenta 12, the 48th Venice Biennale and the first Guangzhou Triennial in 2002.
In his piece for the Wall Street Journal he denounces what he labels as the Chinese government’s attempts to stifle personal freedom and disengage its citizens’ political participation through new technology. Google’s senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer David Drummond reported in January that the company had conducted an investigation that concluded Chinese authorities had gained access to activists email accounts in China. In his editorial, Ai Weiwei claims that he too had fallen victim to just such an invasion, having had his emails forwarded to an unknown address.
The artist applauds Google’s announcement that it will stop censorship in China despite the fact that such a move may jeopardize its business operations in the country. Weiwei championed the decision of Google as one that sends a message to the people of China that recognizes the basic violation of human rights through the controls of the Chinese authorities.
Beyond the censorship of internet search engines on the part of Chinese officials, Flash Art online has covered related issues of censorship regarding Zhang Huan’s canceled and later rescheduled solo exhibition at the ShanghaiArt Museum.