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In his recent graphic memoir “ZODIAC: A Graphic Memoir”, the renowned artist Ai Weiwei writes that artists should “ignite stories”, “fight for freedom” and “help us hope.” Over his long and defiant career, he has used his art in a wide variety of media to do just that. His past works such as “Sunflower Seeds” and “Remembering” confronted issues of censorship and human rights abuses in China; in a recent show in London, he asked questions of an AI Chatbot for his project “Ai vs AI”, including “Is there hope for peace?” Earlier this year, he faced criticism for his expressions of support for Palestinian rights and had a show in London canceled. In this wide-ranging conversation with Laura Flanders, they discuss the role of the artist and ask why is “Power so afraid of art and poets?” As attacks on free speech, surveillance and displacement continue to impact so many of us, how do we keep the doors of our minds open to possibility? And how can art and artists help lead transformation? All that, plus a commentary from Laura.

“I’m not this kind of very active activist. I’m just being forced to act . . . But I’m proud of doing that because that is the meaning of life, to give dignity to life itself . . .” – Ai Weiwei

“The real fear for me is we lost ability to ask the question. We lost our memory, we lost our sense of caring compassion . . .” – Ai Weiwei

“We not encourage people to have free thinking and judgment and that is the ground to produce Nazis or hypocrites. And that can come to political disaster . . . We have this kind of censorship because people cannot freely express their feelings.” – Ai Weiwei


Ai Weiwei: Conceptual Artist, Filmmaker & Human Rights Activist

Portions of this interview are featured in our episode, “Ai Weiwei: How Do We Save Our Humanity?“.

Recommended books:

Bookshop: “Zodiac: A Graphic Memoir” by Ai Weiwei, the Book 

(*Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. The LF Show is an affiliate of and will receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.)

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•  Angela Davis: A Revolutionary Roadmap for Building a Better Future, Watch / Listen-Podcast 

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•  Survival Guide for Humans Learned from Marine Mammals with Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Watch / Listen-Podcast / Full Uncut-Listen-Podcast

Related Articles and Resources:

• Ai Weiwei: Censorship in West ‘exactly the same’ as in Mao Zedong’s China, by Piers Mucklejohn, Standard-UK, February 4, 2024  Read Here

•  Ai Weiwei Takes on A.I. for a New Public Art Exhibition in London’s Piccadilly Circus, by Jo Lawson-Tancred, January 11, 2024, Artnet, Read Here

• Human Flow, a movie by Ai WeiWei  Watch / Learn More 

Featured ‘Music in the Middle’ of the Podcast:

LTJ Xperience remix of “Working On It” Bread & Souls featuring Rich Medina produced by Mark De Clive Lowe from the Bread & Souls:  A Family Gathering, Chapter 1, courtesy of Mashi Beats. Listen & Learn More

Related Episodes, Articles, Uncut Conversations and More

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