Friday’s Big Idea
Today's Big Idea: Revolutionary Handbook
Everything is art. Everything is politics. So says Ai Weiwei, the most relevant artist in the world who China is trying to make irrelevant and Big Think is doing everything we can can to thumb our nose back at that authoritarian regime.
Hey odds makers: do you want to put your money on Big Think or China?
"In addition to being a guide on how to live life," writes Bob Duggan in today's big idea for 2013. The Chinese dissident's new book, Weiwei-isms works as a guide on how to make art. Ai Weiwei writes: “We see plenty of artistic work that reflects superficial social conditions, but very little work that questions fundamental values." Ai Weiwei defines being a modern artist as “a symbolic thing,” ala Marcel Duchamp. “After Duchamp,” he writes, “I realized that being an artist is more about a lifestyle and an attitude than producing some product.”
Ai Weiwei, however, denies that his actions comprise some elaborate “performance art”: “It’s really life and death [not art].” All life is art, so how can you categorize any part of it as a “performance”? Ai Weiwei sounds the most Duchampian when he says that “[t]radition is only a readymade. It’s for us to make a new gesture—to use it as a reference, more as a starting point than conclusion,” hence the paradoxes of a modern artist channeling Confucius and a series of Tweets and online writings converted into old school, dead tree books. Life, art, and politics are all what you make of them—starting points in a race to serve the human race.