Article contains some adult language / images – Zuo Shou 左手
The Western media are once again having a field day about the detention of yet another “dissident”, this time the artist Ai Weiwei.
To hear the New York Times tell it, “Ai Weiwei Takes Role of China’s Conscience”. We could legitimately ask if Bradley Manning or Julian Assange are taking the role of “America’s conscience”, but perhaps we’ll leave that one for another time.
Ai Weiwei, Whom the NYT Rather Inappropriately calls “China’s Conscience”
Ai at Tian’anmen Square, gesturing obscenely towards the Gate of Heavenly Peace.
- An Error in Fact: Ai Weiwei did not design the Olympic “Bird’s Nest”
First, let’s clear up a few misconceptions – starting with Beijing’s Olympic Stadium, the Bird’s Nest.
According to the NYT, “… the Chinese government asked Mr. Ai to collaborate with the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron on the design for the Olympic stadium, known the Bird’s Nest. He did so. The result was a triumph.”
Or, according to the LA Times, “The 53-year-old Ai, designer of the “Bird’s Nest” stadium built for the 2008 Summer Olympics …”
Or The Economist, who wrote, “.. a lasting legacy in the shape of the “bird’s nest” stadium in Beijing built for the 2008 Olympics …
Ai Weiwei did not design Beijing’s Olympic stadium. In 2001, even before Beijing had been awarded the right to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, the city held a bidding process to select the best arena design.
Of the final thirteen evaluated designs, Li Xinggang of China Architecture Design and Research Group (CADG) exhibited a model of the bird’s nest, and this design became official in April of 2003 – fully five years before the Olympics began.
The innovative structure was designed by Herzog & De Meuron Architekten, Arup Sport and CADG, and was nicknamed the “bird’s nest” due to the web of twisting steel sections that form the roof.
Ai Weiwei was not involved in any way in the building’s design… [I cannot locate any evidence that Ai had any creative input whatsoever. The most one can get from Western journalistic reports is that he was a “consultant” to Herzog & De Meuron, yet any creative content to that consultancy is a mystery. From the most in-depth article on the story of the Bird’s Nest that I could find, Arthur Lubow’s China-bashing article “The China Syndrome” in the New York Times, Ai was at best a logistical, networking and/or sightseeing “consultant” for the foreign firm Herzog & De Meuron. That article, which is strongly infused with anti-China propaganda from the author, quite starkly illustrates Ai’s persona as anti-China Chinese with a welter of the man’s quoted cynical and disparaging comments…but, compared with a wealth of input and commentary by the structure’s actual architects and designers, gives absolutely nothing by way of explaining Ai’s creative “collaboration” in the design. Ironically, this NYT article is primary evidence in undermining the paper’s later claim, mentioned above, that the Bird’s Nest design was “Ai[‘s collaborative]…triumph”. As for any help from Wikipedia to clear this up, read the citations if you will — which also fail to provide evidence of Ai’s creative input — yet the entry on “Bird’s Nest”, like the NYT, clearly contradicts itself about Ai’s role. – Zuo Shou 左手]