When dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei secretly photographed himself giving the middle finger to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1995, he knew it was provocative. But he never thought it would mark the beginning of a decades-long confrontation with the Chinese Government.
Or perhaps he did. Ai Weiwei has been openly critical of regimes around the world, with his work’s objective being to bring attention to social injustices, human rights violations and systemic violence. Never shying away from controversy, his project ‘Study of Perspective’ encapsulates his aims and artistic voice.
Produced between 1995 and 2017, the series sees Ai Weiwei stick it to significant institutions, landmarks and monuments around the world. Mimicking the banality of tourist photos, the subjects are sites of injustice and force audiences to question their acceptance and adherence to these establishments. This project symbolises an act of defiance, and has achieved both worldwide recognition and inspired his fans to recreate their sentiment in solidarity.
Perhaps, unsurprisingly, his actions have drawn attention from several governments. The artist has experienced cases of abduction and detention. During which, Ai Weiwei was extensively questioned and beaten, leading to a brain haemorrhage which nearly killed him.
Despite this, Ai Weiwei is not phased – the artist continues to make thought provoking art that calls into question the very meaning of what it is to make art, and what it is to accept injustice. With one small gesture, he both raises awareness of global inequality and gives a masterclass on not giving a fuck.