When Ai Weiwei was arrested at the beginning of April I went speechless. I couldn’t find the words. About him, about my helplessness, about Bob Dylan performing in China that very week. I had nothing to say about the controversial work at the Venice Biennale titled Bye Bye Ai Weiwei.
Was I supposed to mention the people that were tortured in jail for political reasons while I was just living my life bridging two centuries? Was I supposed to condemn the Chinese Communist Party publicly, to write about Dylan’s long time refusal to talk about politics, to reassure someone I was getting the irony of the otherwise disturbing neon words in Venice? Was I supposed to link the petitions I was signing?
What I did was going to the Tate Modern in search of the sunflower seeds, finding them, and then going out in the cloudy afternoon and raising my eyes to the the block letters reading RELEASE AI WEIWEI. That very night Ai Weiwei was released on bail. He’s still without a passport, he cannot travel outside Beijing and he cannot talk to journalists, but at least we know were he is and that he’s not being tortured while we merely write a post. The next day I went back to the Tate modern, and the block letters were still there. Two days later RELEASE was gone, leaving a pale mark on the facade.