No need for apologies
Luck and circumstance brought American journalist Alison Klayman (see interview) into contact with Ai Weiwei in 2008 when she made a documentary short for a Beijing gallery about the artist’s New York Photographs. After completion, Klayman continued filming, amassing 300 hours of footage, now distilled into a 90-minute character portrait of one of the world’s most prominent artists.
Ai’s commitment to documenting the death of schoolchildren in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake placed him firmly in the dissident-artist category and when he went to Chengdu in Sichuan to testify for another earthquake activist, he was beaten by police. He dealt with the incident using online media, whilst conceiving artworks such as the Remembering backpack installation at the So Sorry retrospective at Munich’s Haus der Kunst in 2009.
Ai’s increasingly persistent criticism of China’s restrictive communication policies led to an 81-day detention by authorities in 2011. The film closes with his release. With its almost unique focus on Ai’s activism, there is little analysis of seminal works such as “Sunflower Seeds”, created for the Tate in 2010, which is a pity.
Instead, Klayman depicts an individual situated at a pretty unique intersection of responsibilities, conveying a sense of Ai’s commitment to transparency – adhered to regretfully but consistently when it comes to his private life and held high as the standard against which he measures the public life of his country.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry | Directed by Alison Klayman (USA 2012) with Ai Weiwei. Starts June 14