After his recent release from Chinese government custody, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei backed away from the biggest, and probably most influential, artistic project: his Twitter account, a stream of art, activism, jokes, and conversation that were sent to 92,455 followers in China, the United States and all over the world. Ceasing his Twitter production seemed to be part of Ai's release deal, a bargain that also includes not speaking to reporters about his arrest and detainment. That silence might be over with Ai's new Google Plus account, begun early this morning, and already making waves in the blogosphere. The question is, will the Chinese government still allow Ai to express himself, or will the Google Plus account end with a rude awakening that no online space is safe?
Ai's Google Plus profile holds only two messages so far: the first, "来了，问候" ("I'm here, greetings"), and "有生命体征" ("Here's proof of life"), a note followed by a Myspace-style self portrait of a shirtless Ai, camera held over his head. Over 5,000 people have already added the artist to their circles, notes Hyperallergic, an action akin to "following" on Twitter or "friending" on Facebook — those who put the artist in their Google Plus friend circles will receive all of his updates, posts and photos. The artist's first post already has 376 comments and the second 494, so odds are good that Google Plus will prove as popular a medium as Twitter has for the artist.
Google Plus is the world's fastest growing social network ever, gaining 10 million users through email invitations in just two weeks, as opposed to Facebook, which took two years to reach the same point. Still, the new social network was blocked by the Chinese government's Great Firewall only 24 hours after it went public, keeping participation outside the reach of most ordinary Chinese citizens, but relatively accessible for cultural cognoscenti and ex-patriates. Twitter is also blockedWill Google Plus be Ai's new outlet? If Ai will be able to go back to his massively popular Twitter account has yet to be seen, but Google Plus