Writers Stage Literary Protest for Free Expression in Solidarity with Chinese Artists and Writers

Acclaimed writers Sergio De La Pava, Jennifer Egan, Chang-Rae Lee, and Victoria Redel will join PEN American Center on the plaza of Brooklyn Public Library on April 10 to protest Beijing’s efforts to silence Ai Weiwei and other Chinese writers and artists.

The event—endorsed by Ai supporters including Marina Abramović, Chuck Close, Agnes Gund, Anish Kapoor, Shirin Neshat, Susan Sarandon, and Julian Schnabel—will begin with short readings of prose, poetry, and testimonials of Chinese writers including Ai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, and Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, who PEN announced Monday would receive the 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, much to the chagrin of the Chinese government. Attendees will then proceed, handcuffed, to the Brooklyn Museum (0.3 miles) to watch a never-before-seen video message from Ai Weiwei, projected onto the museum exterior by the Illuminator Truck made famous during the Occupy Wall Street protests. In a final nod to Ai’s art installations, demonstrators will break free of the handcuffs and deposit them at the museum in the name of freedom of expression for all Chinese artists and writers.

Ai Weiwei is barred from attending an upcoming retrospective of his work at the Brooklyn Museum, which opens on April 17, because his passport has been confiscated and held by the Chinese government since he was arbitrarily detained for 81 days in 2011. Ai joins a growing list of persecuted artists in China, including former Independent Chinese PEN Center President Liu Xiaobo, a writer and political activist sentenced to 11 years in prison for seven sentences deemed subversive by the government. PEN’s 2009 rally for Liu on the steps of the New York Public Library ignited the campaign for his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize nomination and award.

WHO:     PEN American Center, Brooklyn Public Library, and Friends of Ai Weiwei; co-sponsored by Asian American Writers Workshop and Phil & Co.

WHAT:   A Literary Protest for Free Expression in China

WHERE: The Plaza at Brooklyn Public Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY

WHEN:  Thursday, April 10, 7PM

Visuals: Never-before-seen video message from Ai Weiwei projected onto the Brooklyn Museum; lighted message by the NYC Light Brigade; artworks and prints by Ai Weiwei and Shepard Fairey; procession of high-profile American writers in handcuffs

Additional Information: Learn more at PEN.org/ai or on Twitter with #WithFlowers


Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is a community of 3,500 American writers working to break down barriers to free expression around the world. Learn more at PEN.org

Contact: Sarah Edkins, PEN American Center: sedkins@pen.org, 347-927-9505 (mobile)