Whilst at the Royal Academy of Arts, the Year 10 students and Head of Art, Juley Hudson, bumped into John Snow interviewing the Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei prior to the opening of his show. Channel 4 news filmed the encounter and the footage was used for the special news programme on the 14th September 2015. If you didn’t see it then, you can watch it here : Enjoy the video, it’s a great interview! He even requested a selfie with the students, which he promptly uploaded to his Instagram account!
About Ai Wei Wei
“Art is not an ending it is a beginning”
“I think art certainly is the vehicle for us to develop any new ideas, to be creative, to extend our imagination, to change the current conditions”
His father was a famous poet : Ai Weiwei was born into China’s cultural avant-garde, his mother a writer and his father an artist and activist. But after Ai Qing returned to Shanghai from studying painting in Paris in 1932, he was jailed for leftist leanings by the Nationalist government. Unable to paint in prison, by the time he was released three years later he was famed for the poetry he had written behind bars – now considered a pillar of Modern Chinese literature. Read Ai Qing’s obituary in the Independent
He grew up in exile: Ai Weiwei’s first 20 years were spent in harsh confinement – now at the hands of the Communist government. Ai Weiwei’s father had joined the Communist Party after his release from prison, and become a confidante and poet to Mao Zedong as the People’s Republic of China was founded. But in 1957, the year Ai Weiwei was born, such literary expressions were deemed threatening and Ai Qing was denounced as a rightist. Banned from writing and exiled first to north eastern China then to the north west, he was forced into hard labour while the family lived in an underground, rat-ridden shed. Education was scarce for Ai; his father’s extensive collection of books was burned, but for one French encyclopaedia which he’d annotate and relay to his son. The family were only allowed to resettle in Beijing 20 years later, when Mao died in 1976.
The most daring artist in China: Ai has campaigned for human rights since his student days – his Beijing troupe of artist-activists,The Stars, were getting their exhibitions shut down by police as early as 1979 – but it was in 2008 that he reached a global audience. Following Sichuan’s devastating earthquake, the artist attempted to name all the children who were killed due to substandard construction of their schools, while the government remained silent. He eventually published a list of over 5000 online – which saw his volunteers arrested, his blog shut down and a brutal beating for Ai. Nonetheless, he went on to make Straight, 2008-2012, a 90-tonne assemblage of reinforcing steel bars reclaimed from the site of the collapsed buildings and hammered back straight.