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Ai Weiwei Flees Germany

I have been a fan of Ai Weiwei for many years. “Fan” is a funny word to use for someone who follows an artist and Ai Weiwei’s artform may be more about life than about graphic art.

Ai’s latest performance seems to be becoming an exile in Britain! Devastated by his time in Germany, which he regards as still Nazi,now he lives in the UK where  he has fantasies of becoming a barber.

The Chinese artist, survivor, and patriotic advocate for freedom in his home,  talks about his personal sense of threat .. to himself and his family in China, to himself as a minority in Berlin, and the cost of being outspoken.  Now, he orders English breakfast tea and lays into the country that gave him refuge after fleeing China in 2015. Sadly, Ai Weiwei now sees Germany as intolerant, bigoted and authoritarian.

This make ME so sad.  Of all cities in the world, it is Berlin that comes closest to celebrating exactly the sort of performance art that defines Ai Weiwie himself.  While, Ai’s stories of being abused by cab drivers and , presumably,others for his race are likely true, Bwekin is also the city where the front half of a synagogue still stands, gloriously restored as a foredrop to the visage of Berlin still devastated by the allies.  The nations Parliament, the now the Bundestag, meets under the restored framework of the Reichstag burned down by Hitler.  Berlin is also a city where Rudolph Virchow, considered by many the 8th greatest scientist of all time, is still remembered as the socialist hero who built the city’s first sewers.  Even on the once communist East side, a lonley romanesque temple celebrates the burial of Nazi soldiers and the ashes of their victims in one building. I could go on and on, but as a fan of Berlin and Ai Weiwei I am sorry that the artist did not find his role in the history of Berlin.

In an interview in The Guardian, Ai claims to have no illusions about Britain,  “In Britain they are colonial. They are polite at least. But in Germany, they don’t have this politeness. They would say in Germany you have to speak German. They have been very rude in daily situations. They deeply don’t like foreigners.” Imagine that!  But I know that Ai Weiwei speaks English, so perhaps he just failed to integrate with an artistic community there German, Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish, Russia and Turkish are better tools than the international tongue of the Brit and American eras?

Perhaps Ai Weiwei is caught in a time warp? Ai and his own family lived in a cave during the cultural revolution. His parents were assigned to cleaning out the drainage ditch used for human defecation.  The Guardian reports that Ai says he’s relocated in Britain primarily so that 10-year-old Lao, Ai’s son,  will get a good education. “I don’t want him to live in harsh conditions. I don’t think Germany provides a good environment for foreigners.” Yet I wonder how Lao will see Ai’s heritage in a country where he, I assume, will be seen like a Saudi princeling in a school where the King’s English and the legend of a a failed empire define the school and his Lao’s likely friends?


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