Covering the opening of Ai Wei Wei’s show at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum, the Japan Times gives a little biographical background on the artist:
Ai’s political consciousness was “unavoidable.” Born in 1957, the son of the then-persecuted, now-revered Chinese poet Ai Qing, Ai’s childhood was spent in the remote Western provinces, where his family had been banished to during the Cultural Revolution as “enemies of the people.” His first political decision was to become an artist.
“My work has always been political, because the choice of being an artist is political in China,” says Ai. “The first choice I made was to try to escape the Communist Party’s propaganda.
“To me, to be political means you associate your work with a larger number of people’s living conditions, and that includes both mental and physical conditions. And you try to use your work to affect the situation.”
After attending film school in Beijing in the late ’70s, Ai first achieved notice through involvement in The Star, a grouping of avant-garde artists. Ai decamped to New York City in 1981 and spent the next decade absorbing the city’ energies and illuminations: enrolling at Parsons School of Design; discovering Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp and Jasper Johns; translating Allen Ginsberg; and always with a camera in hand, documenting.
Since returning to China in 1993, Ai’s profile has steadily risen to the present position of him being among the most celebrated of Chinese contemporary artists. His artworks, ranging from photography and sculpture to large-scale installations and performance pieces, have been a major presence at the most significant international biennales and art fairs over the past decade. Ai has also developed an active architectural practice, operating from FAKE, his cheekily named studio at Caochangdi in east Beijing, which has been registering and intervening in the dramatic transformations to China’s cities.
Escape from Propaganda (Japan Times)