Art as Activism: An Evening with Ai Weiwei
Since 2008, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has become a household name in the United States and around the world. Celebrated for both his creativity and his activism—and the unique place where they meet—Ai Weiwei has led the fight against censorship, shed light on the international refugee crisis, exposed government corruption, and more.
“Literature is a place where we can construct new realities together, but unless the literature available to us is representative, those new realities threaten to reconstruct the prejudice and discrimination of the world we live in,” says Ai Weiwei. The artist will share the stage with PEN America President and writer Andrew Solomon for an intimate conversation on life as a dissident, the impact of his celebrity status on his art, and new and renewed threats to artistic expression in both China and the United States.
This event is presented in collaboration with PEN America’s newest initiative, the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC).
Ai Weiwei is renowned for making strong aesthetic statements that resonate with timely phenomena across today’s geopolitical world. From architecture to installations, social media to documentaries, Ai uses a wide range of mediums as expressions of new ways for his audiences to examine society and its values. Recent exhibitions include: “Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn” at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., “Maybe, Maybe Not” at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, “Law of the Journey” at the National Gallery in Prague, “Ai Weiwei. Libero” at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, “#SafePassage” at Foam in Amsterdam, “translocation – transformation” at 21er Haus in Vienna, and “Ai Weiwei” at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Ai was born in Beijing in 1957 and currently resides and works in both Beijing and Berlin. Ai is the current Einstein Visiting Professor at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK), and he is the recipient of the 2015 Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International and the 2012 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation. Photo credit Ai Weiwei Studio.
Andrew Solomon is a writer and lecturer on politics, culture, and psychology; a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center; and the president of PEN America. He is the author of, most recently, Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change, an anthology of his international reporting, and Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction as well as more than 25 other national awards. His previous book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, won the National Book Award and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist; it was published in 24 languages. He is also the author of The Irony Tower: Soviet Artists in a Time of Glasnost, and of a novel, A Stone Boat. His writing appears frequently in The New Yorker and in The New York Times, and he is often on NPR. His TED talks have been viewed over 10 million times. Solomon is an activist in LGBT rights, mental health, education, and the arts. He is founder of the Solomon Research Fellowships in LGBT Studies at Yale University and a member of the board of the National LGBTQ Force and Trans Youth Family Allies. Additionally, Solomon serves on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the World Monuments Fund, Yaddo, and The Alex Fund. He joined the PEN America Board in 2012.