April 9, 2014

Blog: Writers Stage Literary Protest for Free Expression in China Inspired by Ai Weiwei

PEN American Center presents, in partnership with Friends of Ai Weiwei and Brooklyn Public Library, a literary protest of Beijing’s efforts to silence Ai Weiwei and other Chinese writers and artists. PEN American Center will hold the rally in Brooklyn, NY on Thursday, April 10 at 7pm. Those who cannot attend can show their support by tweeting with #WITHFLOWERS.

The event—endorsed by Ai supporters including Marina Abramović, Chuck Close, Agnes Gund, Anish Kapoor, Shirin Neshat, Susan Sarandon, and Julian Schnabel—will begin with short readings of prose, poetry, and testimonials of Chinese writers including Ai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, and Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, who PEN announced Monday would receive the 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, much to the chagrin of the Chinese government. Attendees will then proceed, handcuffed, to the Brooklyn Museum to watch a never-before-seen video message from Ai Weiwei, projected onto the museum exterior by the Illuminator Truck made famous during the Occupy Wall Street protests. In a final nod to Ai’s art installations, demonstrators will break free of the handcuffs and deposit them at the museum in the name of freedom of expression for all Chinese artists and writers.

Ai Weiwei was barred by the Chinese government from attending the opening of Pérez Art Museum Miami, where his exhibition According to What? kicked off the museum’s inaugural season, and will not be able to attend his upcoming exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum.   

Ai Weiwei Rally
Image courtesy of Shepard Fairey