(Video link here). At first we thought a video of artist Ai Weiwei dancing around singing a cute kid’s tune with an iPad in his hand to be a fun, restorative, vicariously-liberating bit of ‘technobiophilia’. That’s researcher Sue Thomas’ word for our “innate attraction to life and lifelike processes as they appear in technology”, that actually enhance our digital well-being. After all, Ai Weiwei’s work is always life-affirming and illuminating; and we know for sure that just watching joyful stuff can help our mindset.
We discovered that Ai Weiwei’s video is also a message of rebellion and action. He is dancing to a video that went viral in China in 2009 after the Chinese government launched a campaign to “clean online information” and shut down websites. Written out in Chinese characters, the lyrics of the song seem delightfully benign. When spoken or sung, the song contains startlingly vulgar and subversive phrases.* According to a New York Times’ article:
To Chinese intellectuals, the songs’ message is clearly subversive, a lesson that citizens can flout authority even as they appear to follow the rules.
We don’t know if Sue Thomas made all these connections in her book, but we think Ai WeiWei’s song, with its intrinsic celebration of self-expression, is a perfect way to start the New Year. As are these great Weiwei-isms in his book by that name, that make us ask ourselves “What action can I take today?”.
A small act is worth a million thoughts.
Your own acts tell the world who you are and what kind of society you think it should be.
If you don’t act, the danger becomes stronger.
I want people to see their own power.
*You can read the lyrics to the Song of the Grass-Mud Horse, and a analysis of its happily subsersive nature here.