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the Complete Review
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Ai Weiwei

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To purchase Weiwei-isms

Title: Weiwei-isms
Author: Ai Weiwei
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: (2012)
Length: 102 pages
Original in: (Chinese)
Availability: Weiwei-isms - US
Weiwei-isms - UK
Weiwei-isms - Canada
Weiwei-isms - India
  • Edited by Larry Warsh
  • With an Introduction by Larry Warsh and J.Richard Allen

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Our Assessment:

(-) : fine little collection

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 23/11/2012 Peter Aspden
The Independent . 11/1/2013 C. Sebag-Montefiore

  From the Reviews:
  • "They are epigrammatic, pungent, uncompromising. And of course they deliberately echo the format of a small book that became one of the most widely read, and ill-understood, publications of the past century. (...) Ai Weiwei has become the enemy within China, and his far from dull-witted new book is an affront to Mao, from its first pages" - Peter Aspden, Financial Times

  • "Weiwei-isms will, above all, help to cement Ai as the poster-boy for Chinese dissent in the West. It is a role which he courts and relishes. His quotations, collected from his own writings, interviews and Tweets, offer musings on art, politics and Chinese life. They also show us the man himself: uncompromising, upfront, amusing, and charismatic, with an often wicked sense of humour." - Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, The Independent

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In their Introduction, Larry Warsh and J.Richard Allen suggest:

Weiwei-isms distills Ai Weiwei's thinking on the topics of individual rights and freedom of expression, filtered through his responses to a range of events
       Taken from a variety of sources, including his tweets, as well as various articles and interviews (with the sources meticulously noted), Weiwei-isms isn't quite a collection of aphorisms or observations: some of these (like the tweets) clearly were meant to stand on their own from the beginning, while others have been pulled out of longer material. It makes for a solid 'sayings of Ai Weiwei'-collection, giving readers a good sense of the man and his concerns.
       Many of the entries are longer than the 140-character tweet-limit, but very few approach even just a hundred words, so these are largely concise and general statements. Often there is some context -- the 2008 Olympic games, his eighty-one-day incarceration -- but many are also very general (with the occasional leap to the banal: "Very few people know why art sells so high. I don't even know.").
       Grouped into six sections covering various 'themes', there is quite a bit here that is interesting and revealing. Certainly Ai's dedication to freedom of expression -- and insistence on the necessity of expression itself, whether artistic or political -- is welcome, as are, for example, statements such as:
I call on people to be "obsessed citizens," forever questioning and asking for accountability. That's the only chance we have of today of a happy and healthy life.
       His embrace and use of the Internet is appealing as well. As he notes, with: "140 words in Chinese you really can write a novel" (the character-based Chinese writing system allowing much more to be packed into a tweet than using an alphabetical system) -- and one can understand his belief that:
The Internet is the best thing that could have happened to China.
       Though best-known as a visual artist, it's also heartening to see how convinced he is of the power of the word, describing how:
Later I became very involved in writing. I really enjoyed the moment of writing. People would pass around my sentences. That was a feeling I never had before. It was like a bullet out of a gun.
       Highly critical of the Chinese government, Ai posits that: "Everything is art. Everything is politics." -- and, despite the obstacles put up by the government, also states confidently: "The art always wins."
       Presented in an attractive little almost-Mao's-'Little-Red-Book"-sized volume (but hardbound and black), Weiwei-isms is enjoyable to dip into, but also interesting enough to linger over. Obviously, the sampling of thoughts, cut down to size, is somewhat limited -- but the comprehensive attribution-list, complete with URLs of the material the bits have been taken from, makes it fairly easy for readers to explore much of this more in depth. Weiwei-isms also makes for a very good overview-introduction of the thoughts of a significant figure active in China at this time (though with only two illustrations gives barely sense of Ai as visual artist).

- M.A.Orthofer, 27 November 2012

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Weiwei-isms: Reviews: Ai Weiwei:

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About the Author:

       Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) was born in 1957.

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© 2012-2021 the complete review

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