The quote is from Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist who has made recent headlines due to his detention by his country’s authorities for carrying out bold actions against suspect and corrupt government practices. His blog posts and tweets are followed by a multitude of people, and his artwork communicates originality and boldness in myriad ways.
I’m in New York City, conducting fieldwork and research for my dissertation project while benefiting from the benevolence and care of friends and family who have provided comfortable quarters and wonderful company. While my days are filled with long subway trips that take me to Fort Greene in Brooklyn, Hamilton Heights and the Bronx, I’ve dedicated a couple of nights to watching documentaries on artists that use their talents to mount important transformations in their countries of origin. Last night, I enjoyed Waste Land, which chronicles Vik Muniz’ work with the catadores or recyclables pickers of Jardim Gramacho in Brazil. Tonight, it’s Frontline’s brief biopic of Weiwei, as told by Alison Klayman. I’m not sure what it is about this trip, this city, or the neighborhoods I’ve been in—which include a fair share of gentrifying hipsters, working-class folks and struggling migrants—that have led me to this brief film run. My Internet movie nights may have nothing to do with these things, but I strongly believe that places matter, and they have an impact on what we do and how we do it. Figuring out why, and to what extent, is what partly drove me to my research project. In any case, I feel the urge to share these experiences with you.
Below is the video of Weiwei’s piece, and the trailer for Waste Land. Any suggestions for what should come next are most welcome.