Ai Weiwei – the reality show: artist turns the spotlight on himself


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The Independent Online

It's a cross between a reality TV show and performance art, an insightful comment on the Orwellian levels of surveillance under which he lives. The Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has set up four live webcams in his Beijing home in a deliberate nod to the 24-hour monitoring he has been under since he was detained over a year ago.

The webcam project includes a camera set up over his bed, and one at his desk, and can be seen on his website. At the time of writing, the 54-year-old Ai was asleep, though he had left the light on at his work station. One webcam also shows the courtyard of his home.

Ai was taken into custody on 3 April last year as he was leaving Hong Kong airport, during a crackdown on dissent following online calls for a Jasmine-Revolution style revolt in China. He was held for 81 days, prompting an international outcry.

After his release in June last year he was put on probation and is confined to Beijing, under constant surveillance. There are state surveillance cameras at several locations outside his studio.

"In my life, there is so much surveillance and monitoring – my phone, my computer... Our office has been searched, I have been searched; every day I am being followed; there are surveillance cameras in front of my house," he told AFP. "So I was wondering, why don't I put some [cameras] in there so people can see all my activities?"