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Ai Weiwei Is Banned From the Yinchuan Biennale due to his “Political Sensitivity”

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said his work will not be included in the inaugural edition of the Yinchuan Biennale, which is scheduled to run from September 9 to December 18, because of his “political sensitivity.”

The artist, who was listed as one of the biennial’s participating artists earlier this year, wrote on Instagram, “Censorships in communist regions have been present since the existence of the power. Yet it still comes as a surprise to me for an ‘international art biennale,’ with over a hundred international artists and a foreign curator participating, to remove a single artist for the reason of defending human rights and freedom of speech. This shows what we face is a world, which is divided and segregated by ideology, and art is used merely as a decoration for political agendas in certain societies.”

Ai Weiwei claimed to receive a “vague letter” from Xie Suzhen, the art director of MoCA Yinchuan, stating that the decision was made by “higher officials.” Curated by Bose Krishnamachari, curator and cofounder of Kochi-Muziris Biennale, “For an Image, Faster Than Light” was supposed to exhibit work by Ai Weiwei alongside eighty international artists, including Anish Kapoor, Basir Mahmood, Danie Mellor, Liu Wei, Mao Tongqiang, Santiago Sierra, Song Dong, and Yee I-Lann. Krishnamachari said the biennial will explore spiritual and social consciousness, political narratives, and critical global engagement.

Ai Weiwei said, “China is trying to develop into a modern society without freedom of speech, but without political arguments involving higher aesthetic morals and philosophies, art is only served as a puppet of fake cultural efforts.” He added, “Therefore I am happy not to be a part of that effort as a political decoration. I believe the real effort we should make, is in defending freedom of speech for our humanism. Only by doing so, art is worth making.”