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Label: politics

Monday 26th October 2015Ai Weiwei vs ... Lego?

It seems like Ai Weiwei cannot catch a break lately. First Chinese authorities essentially kidnapped him for 81 days of gruelling interrogation and revoked his passport, and then when they finally returned it to him, he was denied the proper visa by British authorities that would have allowed him to attend his first exhibition of his own work since his passport was revoked years ago.

Eventually the whole mess got straightened out, and he was able to attend the event, but things haven't stayed rosy. Currently in Melbourne, Australia working on a group show about political dissidents, Ai was hoping to construct his portraits of a wide range of jailed and exiled dissidents out of the popular construction toy, Lego. Ai previously held a similar exhibition in Alcatraz Prison, San Francisco just the year before, and was hoping to recreate something similar for the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, but apparently the company shut the project down by informing the museum that its product could not be used for artworks that contained "any political, religious, racist, obscene or defaming statements".

Naturally, Ai was less than pleased about this development. "As a commercial entity, Lego produces and sells toys, movies and amusement parks attracting children across the globe. As a powerful corporation, Lego is an influential cultural and political actor in the globalized economy with questionable values. Lego's refusal to sell its product to the artist is an act of censorship and discrimination." he said, taking to Instagram to vent his frustrations and call out the corporation.

A Lego spokesman with the unlikely name of Roar Rude Trangbaek was naturally quick to distance the company from the specific issues raised by Mr. Ai, but did comment to the effect that it has always been Lego company policy to refuse bulk sales of Lego to customers who are expected to use the toy in any political works.

"Lego is giving us the definition of what is 'political', and all the big corporations are telling us what to love or hate", Ai tweeted. It does sound a difficult situation from a public relations perspective, but Ai has explained his suspicions about Lego's true motives by mentioning the fact that the company is hoping to build one of their popular Legoland amusement parks in Shanghai, China, and probably don't want to ruffle the feathers of Chinese officials as a result.
 

Posted on October 26th 2015 on 02:00am
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