Ai Weiwei: Street Art and Protest in China

There was an incredible article in Fast Company recently about imprisoned Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei and the importance of street art and protest memes in China.  (Click here to watch the trailer for the recent documentary called Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.)  From the Fast Company article:

In China, memes aren’t just LOLcats and Nic Cage Photoshop jobs. Internet artists are often subversive and unabashedly stand up for their causes. “Memes are the street art of the social web,” says An Xiao Mina, a digital artist and blogger who spoke over the weekend at the MIT-hosted ROFLcon during a session called “Global Lulzes.”


Take the case of prominent artist Ai Weiwei. When he disappeared, the Internet and Chinese citizens got up in arms. An image of his face became a symbol of protest and memes began to pop up online. But even memes are very managed in China, An Xiao says. “It’s like the public [physical] space in most part of the world. You just can’t go around screaming fire.”


But because Ai Weiwei’s arrest was such a politically sensitive topic, there was a crackdown. On the controlled Chinese web, Ai Weiwei’s name became a blacklisted search query. An Xiao knew him personally, and it was a frightening time when she realized his name was being stamped out.


“But then I was like, wait a minute, he’s everywhere.”

Take a look at some of the incredibly powerful street art and images that surfaced all over china in support of Ai Weiwei:

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