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Censorship inspires film

By Emily Ketterer
On November 5, 2012

For decades the Chinese government has censored its people, but one internationally renowned artist, Ai WeiWei, has been proactively trying to breach that censorship. A documentary about WeiWei's story is being screened Thursday at Miami University.

First-time director and journalist Alison Klayman filmed Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry after gaining unprecedented access to the artist. The film explores contemporary issues in China as well as one of the country's most prominent critical figures. Ann Wicks, Professor of Asian Art History is responsible for bringing the film to Miami.

"This particular film is kind of a hot item on college campuses right now," said Wicks. "It's a beautifully done film and it brings up so many issues important to college students today. Issues about art, its place in society, freedom of speech, contemporary China, the government, business and so much more."

WeiWei is most notably known for filling London's Tate Modern with 100 million hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds and designing the Olympic Stadium in Beijing. In China, WeiWei's art and activism are controversial. According to junior sculpture major Jesse Thayer, he often utilizes and destroys historical artifacts like centuries old furniture and vases in his work, often to mixed reviews.

"I am sure some of the people are like 'no you shouldn't be doing that, why would you break centuries old artifacts, they are precious,'" Thayer said. "But then there are some people who are saying he has to do it as some sort of profound statement for human rights."

Thayer has been examining WeiWei's work in order to determine what motivates him as an artist.

"It is all based on the rights that China is still not getting today," said Thayer. "His dad was a poet during the Cultural Revolution, and he was shut down and couldn't write anymore. I think he grew up with that negative vibe for the government on not having these freedoms that the rest of the world was having."

According to Thayer, WeiWei has been through a lot for his art. In 2011 he was arrested during a government crackdown in which dozens of bloggers, human rights lawyers and writers were swept up. He was filmed every day in his cell for three months. Once he was released, he filmed himself in his room in the same fashion and posted it to a blog in a form of rebellion against government censorship. The blog was quickly shut down.

"People should see the film because it's current," said Wicks. "It has to deal with art worldwide, what artists are thinking and how they are connected with social issues. Plus it is interesting and funny."

Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry will screen 7 p.m. Thursday in room 100 of the Art Building. Admission is free and open to the public. To learn more about the film you can visit

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