Time Out Beijing heroes

Time Out Beijing heroes include: artist Ai Weiwei, designer Xander Zhou and musician Gia

  • Time Out Beijing heroes

    Ai Weiwei © Time Out


  • Ai Weiwei | Xander Zhou | Gia

    Ai Weiwei

    One of Beijing’s most influential artists, Ai Weiwei is best known internationally for designing Beijing’s iconic Olympic ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium. The son of the denounced poet, Ai Qing, Ai Weiwei studied at the Beijing Film Academy and lived in New York. On his return to China he founded the East Village artists’ community and curated several controversial exhibitions. His most notorious moment came when he famously cooked and ate what was supposedly a human foetus.

    We’ve heard you’re a bit grumpy at the moment, would you like to tell us why?

    It’s the general nature of life to be a bit angry. Today my irritation is directed towards the artists involved in the Olympics, especially artistic director Zhang Yimou, but it’s not a personal complaint. I’m upset on behalf of my country and its people. People say to me... ‘Why are you such an asshole? Why are you always saying bad things about China?’ But I’m just being honest. I complain because I think things can be better, and because I want ordinary people to be happier. People think I’m detached and against the system, but you can’t be detached. I’d willingly work with any system that was about the happiness of individuals.

    Did you go and watch any of the Olympics in Beijing?

    No. I watched a few hours on television, including, of course, the opening ceremony. But, I was disappointed by the message – it was so lacking in substance. I was kept busy though while the Games were on – about 40 foreign journalists came to visit me at home. I was probably the most interviewed man in Beijing!

    How much have events in your past, such as the Cultural Revolution, impacted on your life?

    My family suffered during the Cultural Revolution because my father was a poet. He was denounced and we spent five years in a labour camp in Xinjiang Province. I often wonder how people in China seem able to forget their past so easily.

    These days you are a wealthy and influential man, what is it that still makes you angry?

    I might have money and comfort these days, but I’m angrier than ever. Now I have the space to speak out and use my status to make my protest heard, I get increasingly frustrated. It’s harder to detach yourself when you’re actually involved in it.

    Who is your personal hero?

    Anybody who is honest.www.timeout.com/beijingAi Weiwei | Xander Zhou | Gia

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My family suffered during the Cultural Revolution because my father was a poet. He was denounced and we spent five years in a labour camp in Xinjiang Province. I often wonder how people in China seem able to forget their past so easily.I might have money and comfort these days, but I’m angrier than ever. Now I have the space to speak out and use my status to make my protest heard, I get increasingly frustrated. It’s harder to detach yourself when you’re actually involved in it.Anybody who is honest.Ai Weiwei | Xander Zhou | Gia