Ai Weiwei 'loves Berlin', plans long stay

AFP/The Local
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Ai Weiwei 'loves Berlin', plans long stay
Ai WeiWei (r) with son Ai Lao and mother of Ai Lao, Wang Fen (l). Photo: DPA

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, in Germany after being barred from overseas travel out of China for four years, says he is interested in teaching for a while in Berlin.


Taking up the offer of a guest professorship at the University of Fine Arts would allow him to spend more time with his six-year-old son who has lived in the city with his mother for the past year.

During a stroll through a neighbourhood of the German capital, Ai, 57, spoke with AFP of the communist government he has often clashed with, striking a conciliatory note despite his years of house arrest.

Asked whether he would seek asylum in Germany, Ai said: "No, I will not. It's not that I don't have a reason to, but rather I think if they let me out, that means there is also a certain kind of trust there."

"Of course, it's dangerous. I will not show I am a person who is scared. I do sometimes feel quite scared, but still I think we all need trust... when you have a certain kind of trust you bear some kind of responsibility and you take certain kinds of consequences. This is always related."

Nonetheless, he said, no longer being under constant surveillance made him feel free - describing the sensation as that of a horse galloping across fields after long being tethered to a carriage.

"It is a sense of release because it was such a burden," said Ai, who arrived in Germany a week ago.

"Everything in my past had a sense of somebody who was watching, somebody who was making potent decisions about your life. So, of course, once I'm out, that condition is completely gone and I feel quite released."

'I love Berlin'

Ai flew from Munich on Wednesday to the German capital, where the University of Fine Arts has since 2011 kept open an offer of a three-year guest professorship.

"I will talk to them," said Ai. "I will try to see if we can build up a new way of teaching, or to teach new topics, because I think art is changing.

"You know, it's no longer just forms or shapes, but rather related to philosophy or socio-political views. So I think that's a very interesting direction, and it is a direction I am interested to share with students."

Asked whether he would look forward to spending more time in the city, he said: "Yes, I would try to establish something here, spend more time here.

"I love Berlin. I just had a one-hour walk. I feel so comfortable. Like, (it's) my city."

Ai - who helped design the Beijing Olympics Bird's Nest Stadium and has staged blockbuster art shows around the world - has also often clashed with the Chinese government over democracy, human rights and corruption.

The painter, sculptor, photographer and avid social media user was badly beaten by security officials in 2009, the presumed cause of a cerebral haemorrhage for which he later received brain surgery in Germany.

He was detained in 2011 for 81 days. Authorities then put him under house arrest and confiscated his passport, which was returned in a surprise move last month.

He was granted a four-year multiple entry visa by Germany, where he was reunited with his son Ai Lao and the child's mother Wang Fen at Munich airport last week.

There had earlier been controversy in Britain and elsewhere over a UK government decision not to issue Ai a visa, with an immigration official claiming he had not declared a past criminal conviction in his application.


A photo posted by Ai Weiwei (@aiww) on Jul 29, 2015 at 8:43pm PDT

Ai and his supporters say that he has never in fact been convicted of a crime and that the UK decision was unjustified.

UK Home Secretary Theresa May later ordered Weiwei to be issued with a six-month visa to allow him to attend an exhibition of his work at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.


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