Ai Weiwei faced criticism for the Han Dynasty Urn’s still life, but he did not care about the repercussions of his activism. In 2009, Ai’s activism led him to be beaten by police where he endured emergency brain surgery.
In 2011, Ai was arrested at the Beijing airport where he spent three full months in captivity enduring psychological torture. He was kept in a small room always brightly lit and guards watched over him at all hours of the day. When Ai was finally released he was watched under surveillance for several more years. His being alive is in itself a miracle; when asked by World Minds in an Arts and Politics interview Ai stated that the power of society is unknown, everything is kept secret and no outsider of the government knows the logic or reason of the choices they make.
The controversy of dropping the Han Dynasty Urn in the eyes of society is misappropriated, volatile, destructive, and has many other negative views. Yet in the eyes of creativity the piece is a work of brilliance; meant to be seen as a revitalization that focuses on the loss of heritage and questions the values in our modern world and whether it is worth preserving. It is a collaboration piece with an ancient artist thousands of years old.
Ai Weiwei chose a direct confrontation by dropping the urn to demonstrate dissent against a country that sometimes obliterates its own cultural heritage.
Weiwei states: “people always ask me: how could you drop it? I say it’s a kind of love. At least there is a kind of attention to that piece because of the photograph.”
In retrospect, Ai has advanced the recognition of the Han Dynasty Urn and the photograph is worth more now than the urn was before; the urn does still exist but in still life.
When asked why he chose such a powerful demonstration he responded: “the power of my artwork comes not from the audience’s attention, but the challenge to their values. The act is easy- every day we can drop something, but it is when we are forced to come face to face with this action and make a judgment… that is the interesting part.”
Society made this artwork an essence of brilliance, society drove Ai and was the center of his inspiration; so who is to blame?