Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has done everything but stay quiet since the Chinese government told him not to speak publicly following his release from detention last summer. The artist jumped back onto his ever-active Twitter account, has given numerous interviews to international press, and even set up a live-streamed surveillance system that broadcast his Beijing studio to an Internet audience, mocking China’s ongoing monitoring of his activities. Ironically enough, the Chinese government recently forced Ai to turn off his cameras, but Ai has gone public in yet another way.
The artist gave a crowd-sourced interview to Al-Jazeera in a video recorded at his home studio in Beijing’s Caochangdi neighborhood. Responding to questions from fans around the world, the artist talked about his politics and the power of art to enact change. “I use my art to... find a new way of communication and express myself,” he said. “The only way I can still express myself is through the Internet.” After noting that when Ai was arrested he felt that “All Chinese Harry Potters had lost their Dumbledores,” another commenter asked, “What is the power of art in creating public awareness?” Ai responded, “Art really shows the people our consciousness and awareness about our surroundings — it’s a way for us to express ourselves to an audience.”
In honor of Ai’s ongoing outspokenness and his latest triumphs over censorship, we collected 20 of the artist’s greatest quotes, from musings on freedom of speech to the radical anarchy of the Internet.
Click on the slide show to see the quotes, along with images from Ai's life and work.