“Fuck Off” the 2000 exhibition of 46 artists curated by Ai Weiwei and Feng Boyi, was an alternative exhibition to the Shanghai Biennale and was held at Eastlink Gallery, near Suzhou Creek. Which itself was the city’s first attempt at a truly international survey of contemporary art.An event that is participated by both the organizers and artists.
The current exhibition’s Chinese title, “不合作方式”, means “Uncooperative Approach”, but the curators preferred the bold in-your-face English translation.
“Fuck Of” emphasizes the independent and critical stance that is basic to art existence, and its status of independence, freedom and plurality in the situation of contradictions and conflicts. It tries to provoke artist’s responsibility and self-discipline and raise questions about some issues of contemporary Chinese art.
According to Randian, the scandalous exhibition was closed down by China’s Cultural Inspection Bureau, which objected to several controversial works.
Ai goes on to say that
“maybe Fuck Off was most important because of what it represented.”
Feng said that
“We wanted to show the ‘fuck off’ style, not working for the government or in the style of western countries, but a third way.”
Those involved had a clear thought about the image they wanted to give to Chinese institutions and Western curators, institutions and dealers, and that thought was: “We had to say something as individual artist to the outside world, and what we said was ‘fuck off.’”
A catalog of the exhibition has been published, a black book with the simple title “FUCK OFF” on its cover.
“I think there is a responsibility for any artist to protect freedom of expression.” says Ai Weiwei in an interview with BBC Radio 1 in 2011
“Study of Perspective” photo series (1995–2003) is one of Ai Weiwei’s most controversial series, where he photographs himself flipping off important monuments around the world. In this instance Tiananmen Square and the White House.
He went on a hunger strike after the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. He describes it as his personal form of rebellion against any government authority who blatantly or covertly disregard the freedoms of its citizens.
When he took pictures of his hand, with middle finger extended, in front of famous national icons — from the White House to the Eiffel Tower — a middle digit was firmly raised to Mao’s portrait on the Tiananmen Gate.
“The world is not changing if you don’t shoulder the burden of responsibility.” explains Ai Weiwei
The simple manual gesture interrupts the iconic authority invested in each site. The “perspective” provided by the finger is no longer simply a formal measure of the subject but rather suggests the parallel role that buildings play as the symbolic measure of politicized urban space.
“There are no outdoor sports as graceful as throwing stones at a dictatorship.” says Ai Weiwei in an interview with BBC Radio 1
His work often intends to create political transparency and openly dissects the dogma of the ruling class.
He is a man who has experienced the exact opposite of freedom all his life. His father was Ai Qing, was the famed Chinese poet, who in 1967, was declared a “class enemy” by the ruling party. When Ai Weiwei was only 10, his father and the family were exiled to a labour camp in the middle of the Gobi Desert. From there, Ai watched his father, formerly a respected artist, reduced to clean the communal toilets for over 200 people. He was beaten daily and lost vision in one of his eyes due to severe nutritional deprivation. For Ai Weiwei this was his first lesson in the inherent risk of political dissent.
On 4th April, the artist Ai Weiwei was arrested by the Chinese government as he tried to board a plane out of Beijing. The arrest was unfortunate, but not altogether shocking. He may be the country’s most famous living artist, but Ai Weiwei had been the proverbial thorn in the Chinese government’s side for more than two decades.
In case the symbolism was unclear, he stood in front of the Forbidden City, his shirt open, the word “Fuck” on his chest.
There can be a powerful assertion behind a single gesture when used in the proper context.
With a raise of his middle finger, Weiwei champions the social responsibility and individualism of he generation, and shows just how fragile the powerful can truly be.
“My favourite word? It’s ‘act.’”
Courtesy the artist © 2015 Ai Weiwei