Image of artist/activist Ai Weiwei via Wikipedia
Today on this American Independence Day I'm celebrating freedom. Freedom meaning an absence of undue restrictions and an opportunity to exercise one's rights and powers: freedom of speech or conscience; freedom of movement. Freedom to create and display art.
I zipped over to London a couple of weeks ago (where I attended film school) and found one of the highlights of my trip at beautiful Somerset House. It was there in its historic courtyard that I saw the 12 bronze animal head re-creations that Chinese artist/activist Ai Weiwei stunningly produced of the traditional Chinese zodiac sculptures which once adorned the fountain of Yuanming Yuan, an imperial retreat in Beijing. These incredible heads (which were displayed until June 26th) surrounding Somerset House's sparkling fountains were made more powerful by the fact that Ai Weiwei had been detained by Chinese authorities on April 3rd. While I wandered the open courtyard admiring Ai Weiwei's fine work, he was imprisoned.
Chinese officials said they had detained him on suspicion of "economic crimes," but as we know from past experience, what Chinese officials say doesn't accurately reflect a freedom of speech or a freedom of press reality. From The Guardian...
He (Ai Weiwei) is the most high profile of dozens of activists and dissidents arrested, detained or harassed in recent months in what campaigners called China's most severe crackdown on human rights in over a decade. Several are still held and many of those who have been freed are understood to have been released under strict conditions.