Ai Weiwei: Without Fear or Favour

Storyline

Ai Weiwei: Without Fear or FavourArts documentary, first broadcast before Ai Weiwei's arrest by the Chinese authorities in April 2011, and his subsequent release after being detained for 11 weeks.

Architect, photographer, curator and blogger, Ai Weiwei is China's most famous and politically outspoken contemporary artist.

Alan Yentob explores the story of Ai Weiwei's life and art, and reveals how this most courageous and determined of artists continues to fight for artistic freedom of expression while living under the restrictive shadows of authoritarian rule.

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Ratings: 8.45/10from 40 users.

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46 Comments / User Reviews

  1. johnconnolly25

    Pity he exists, a strawman created by China's elite.

  2. Kdt7358

    What would have impressed me more would have been if he had flown all those people over from china who had made the seeds from his studio to experience the exhibition, Instead of middle class people. It kind of defeats the purpose of the work.

    1. Jasmine Yuen Mei Wong

      Well you clearly haven't encountered his work Fairytale then.

  3. Wells Tao

    the way a sunflower moves to always face the sun, a symbol of the totality of China's cultural revolution, to produce it's seeds as symbolic super commodities for the west, is incredibly apt.

  4. Asher Craig

    Our Perception of this is what is "Sick" the Artist is Spokes Person for the Community what he must tell them are secrets the secrets he must tell them are their Secrets

  5. Steven Harris

    Also can't help but notice him using Apple products. Tisk, tisk.

  6. Steven Harris

    So we're meant to believe that in any "socialist society" the only pleasure you can expect is in a pocket full of sunflower seeds? With all due respect to Ai Weiwei, as he's a magnificent artist, and certainly his family suffered greatly, he's confusing what he went through in China with something that China was decidedly not: the pinnacle and solitary example of socialism. He's lived in modern-day Germany, so he should know well enough that socialism does not always equal authoritarian state. Socialism is a broad term that covers many different methods of achieving a particular goal. The same can be said of Capitalism, which under certain interpretations, and at the hands of certain leaders, has achieved it's own substantial death toll. In fact, the China of today seems hard at work adding to said toll.

  7. Winston Smith

    Very talented artist. Brave and what a cool name. Awesome! Thanks for this one.

  8. Erick Ezekiel

    a remarkable story about a remarkable man.
    something that you can think about.

  9. Sieben Stern

    china should spend less time policing it's artists and more time policing it's products! 8X

    1. Guest

      The reason China's products are cheap and bought in massive amount is because they are made to be cheap (inexpensive) to buy.
      My parents are about to buy a kitchen set, they found one made in China for a 1000...a table and 6 chairs/2 with armrests....i have been trying for two days to tell them to buy something better but they say: we are 75 and 77...we don't need something that will last for ever.
      It certainly won't.
      az

    2. Sieben Stern

      this is certainly true - though i was referring to their tainted and poisonous products - toothpaste, dog food, milk, etc., that kill people. much more dangerous than their artists! :3

  10. Guest

    Nothing can stop ART, not even the artist. If one doesn't express it in a physical way, it continues to dance in one's mind while walking, eating, loving, while dreaming.
    Art is like blood, it flows where it needs to flow.
    az

  11. Guest

    Utterly beautiful, Have they been sold yet ? I heard they were going to be sold by the sackfull. Makes me sad to think they will go that way, 100 million together is stunning. 100 million people with one seed each, sharing an understanding is even more so. A sackfull is pointless.

    1. Guest

      Your comment reminded me of something i once wrote.

      what do you think would happen
      if one won 1 million dollars
      what if one gave
      1 dollar to 10000000 people
      eyes in eyes hands in hands
      10 dollars to 100000 people
      eyes in eyes hands in hands
      100 dollars to 10000 people
      eyes in eyes hands in hands
      1000 dollars to 1000 people
      eyes in eyes hands in hands
      10000 dollars to 100 people
      eyes in eyes hands in hands
      100000 dollars to 10 people
      eyes in eyes hands in hands
      what if one gave it all to 1 person
      from 1i to an other 1i
      what could love snowball
      in the process today
      give 1 dollar to 1 person
      who did not ask for it
      see what you get
      give 1 to 1 who did beg for it
      see in the eyes what you give
      eyes are the ghat to a waterfall of charity
      handed over from a beggar of love to 1
      cheer with your eyes
      look with your hand
      how long do you think it would take
      for 1 dollar
      to land on a politician's desk
      on a lawyer's desk
      or on your desk

      I like your way of thinking, it is wide and deep.
      az

    2. Guest

      Az, that is delicious. I know what your getting at :)

    3. lakhotason

      But a sack of real sunflower seeds is not pointless.

    4. Guest

      a good thing to carry on a 2 weeks bus trip.
      az

    5. lakhotason

      Now there is a point.

    6. His Forever

      Love ya, Az! I'll figure out the sunflower seed significance later. I love those things! I couldn't figure out why all my Chinese students had a litteral groove carved in just one of their front incisors. Darnedest thing I've ever seen . . . until I was invited to a sunflower eating fest. They could eat 10 to my one as I refused to "groove" my front tooth with a million sunflower seeds and used my fingers or back teeth instead!!! Four teenage boys can leave a pile of shells a foot high in just an hour. Truly a phenominon to watch! ;-)

    7. Guest

      And probably of greater value in its own humble way.

    8. Guest

      So many layers of meaning, and some people think art is pointless.

    9. L L

      *likes this post
      :) I would be in utmost agreement with you a year ago, but, just to play the devil's advocate, here goes:
      To quote Picasso (whether or not you believe him to be an artist) "Art is the lie that reveals the truth" That is to say art exist in our imagination but reveal aspects of the world at large That being said, school has taught me recently that it is possible to come up with pseudo-meaning or, the vernacular, BS Look around you What do you see? You could come up with some profound explanation for a pencil, a pen or the computer But where is the meaning in that? The idea has come full circle meaningless meaningless

    10. dewflirt

      But that's my point, you see a thing and decide it needs meaning, something without it is almost too difficult to get to grips with. You take all the cultural references, whatever you might know about the artist, compare it to other works you might know etc and invent a meaning that means something to you. A thousand people might see this work and with only a little knowledge and understanding, come to the same conclusion. A thousand more might share another understanding, both can be right, they are not mutually exclusive because it's art and open to interpretation. And sometimes art is just a pencil. Like the room with a bit of blu-tack on the wall. Meaningless til you see it and then maybe it becomes a temptation, pick it, move it, steal it away to play with on a boring business ride, make a ball or a snowman with it. Or not. It is bs, but you react to it one way or another and become part of its meaning. But that's only my view of it, your view is equally valid :)

  12. Imightberiding

    @Vlatko Thanks for another good one.

  13. Johnny yi

    To Anthony Williams , I thought it was because of the ceramic dust that was created from the seeds breaking from people walking on it. Ceramic dust is really bad for the lungs as it clings to the pores of yours alveoli.

  14. Aaylsworth

    Interesting, looks like he doesn't actually make any of his stuff it's all conception, still good though.

  15. Anthony Williams

    Now I understand why they stopped people from walking on the sunflower seeds after their installation, I guess someone figured out the message of having thousands of western consumers walking all over the hand made Chinese ceramic was a little politically ignorant, lol, and you can also see why the fat emperor of Chinese art was equally miffed when they stopped it, since that was probably part of his "idea" for the work. Luckily for the the Chinese their industry isn't wholly at the disposal of Weiwei, lol and thus the widgets they usually churn out aren't as entirely useless as a sea of sunflower seeds.

    1. Johnny yi

      To Anthony Williams , I thought it was because of the ceramic dust that was being released from seeds breaking. Ceramic dust is really bad for the lungs as it clings to the pores of your alveoli.

    2. Anthony Williams

      Well perhaps your right as regards to the genuine motivation coming from a health and safety perspective, I can't deny that and it would be entirely "English" however I found it quite interesting at the time that wei wei was so verbose about the fact he wanted people to walk on the seeds, I couldn't understand why he was so keen on that part of the exhibition.

      I realised why, when I watched the film and saw the exhibit in a clearer fashion, there is a strong political message there and its clear to see, the symbology of the sunflower seed, which represents the poverty of chinas working class, the labour involved in the production of this simple symbolic object etc. Making my point more clearly, I think to have thousands of people rolling about and walking over something which essentially represents the poverty and labour of a country's working class is a powerful political message.

      Its undeniably smart art, but Weiwei still puzzles me, he seems to exist in a vacuum trapped between ideals of the west and the cultural identity of his homeland, yet sometimes he treats his own cultural heritage in a contemptuous fashion. He is behind powerful architectural symbols of chinas modern aspirations and then criticises the "State" for using his work as propaganda. I mean he's a walking contradiction. That's why I refereed to him as the Emperor of Chinese art I think he wants it all his own way.

      Oh and if you think about t there are an awful lot of highly dangerous gravel paths and driveways in England spewing out toxic dust as we speak not to mention the fact that concrete dust must now be seen as a highly deadly form of aggregate, to be avoided on all building sites throughout England, Dust deadly deadly dust...

    3. Johnny yi

      Well put, the world walking on the giant labor force of china. ah wei this sneaky b*stard

  16. panthera f

    A very ordinary, but special man. :-)

  17. blahblahbob

    Ai Weiwei is such a nice breath of fresh air in an art world dominated by meaningless drabble produced by the damien hirsts and jeff koons of the world and bought and displayed by the eli broads of the world. finally it seems that art stands for something real again... thanks Ai!

    1. L L

      hum... I would like to disagree. I would put him in the same style and approach as the artist that you have mention. Modern art resonates with some and not with others, understanding of said art is purely personal.

  18. S.E.T.H

    A great piece of film and Art.