Elegy and Upheaval

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei © Ai Weiwei Studio

Ai Weiwe (b. 1957 in Peking) is one of the world’s best-known contemporary artists. He is a film maker, sculptor and installation and concept artist, and is also one of the most radical critics of the Chinese government. In the late 1970s he studied at the Peking Film Academy before moving to New York for twelve years in 1981. In 1994, after his return, he founded the China Art Archives and Warehouse, a gallery for experimental art. Spectacular photo actions in which for instance Ai Weiwei smashed Han Dynasty vases, created a furore. His political art project ‘Remembering’ shed light on state corruption and cover-up by the Chinese government after the Sichuan earthquake. Ai Weiwei became internationally known at documenta 12 (2007) with his projects ‘Fairytale’ and ‘Template’. In 2010 he carpeted the Tate Modern Turbine Hall with more than 100 million sunflower seeds hand-crafted in porcelain. In 2011 Ai Weiwei was imprisoned for alleged economic crimes. After being released on bail he was under house arrest and his passport with withdrawn. His travel ban was lifted in 2015 and Ai Weiwei has since then lived in Berlin. There was an exhibition of his work in the Martin Gropius Bau in 2014, entitled ‘Evidence’. He was invited to take his documentary film ‘Human Flow’ on the consequences of the international refugee crisis to the Venice Film Festival in 2017. His latest project, the big show ‘Good Fences Make Good Neighbours’ could be seen in 300 public places in New York in 2017-2018.

Exhibitions (Selection):
territorial, in the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main 2006)
Fairytale and Template, documenta 12, Kassel 2007
Sunflower Seeds, Tate Modern, London 2010-2011
Evidence, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin 2014
Good Fences Make Good Neighbours, New York 2017-2018

Zheng Xiaoqiong

Zheng Xiaoqiong © privat

Zheng Xiaoqiong (b.1980 in the south-west Chinese province of Sichuan) unexpectedly won the major Liqun Literature Award in 2007. Until then she had been completely unknown in China’s literary life. Zheng Xiaoqiong began writing poems when she moved to Dongguan City in Guangdong Province in 2001 as a migrant worker and spent six years working in a hardware factory. Her experiences in those years became the material for her literature in her cycle The Book of the Women Workers. Her texts tell of the inhuman everyday life in the factories, of working in dispatch ports, on wire-cutting machines and conveyor belts under the “steady noise of ceiling lights”. It is engaged literature that gives a voice to the losers of Globalisation.

(For five poems in English see Poetry International website)

Yang Lian

Yang Lian © privat

Poet Yang Lian (b. 1955 in Berne) is the son of Chinese diplomats. He grew up in Beijing and was sent to the countryside for re-education through labour during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. His poems appeared in the literary underground at the end of the 1970s. Following his protests at the Tiananmen Square massacre the Chinese government revoked his Chinese citizenship. Since then, Yang Lian has lived in exile, first in London and now in Berlin.
In terms of literary history, Yang Lian is grouped into the tradition of the Chinese “obscure poets”. He has written about his poems, which keep coming back to the early death of his mother and the fate of a life in exile, “Where difficulty and depth goad each other on is fundamentally where the fate of the poet and the fate of the poem meet.”

Publications in English
Where the Sea Stands Still: New Poems by Yang Lian Translated by Brian Holton, Newcastle: Bloodaxe Books (1999)
Non-Person Singular: Collected Shorter Poems of Yang Lian. Translated by Brian Holton, London: WellSweep Press (1994)
Concentric Circles. Translated by Brian Holton and Agnes Hung-Chong Chan, Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, (2005)
Notes of a Blissful Ghost. Translated by Brian Holton, Hong Kong: Renditions Paperbacks(2002)
Unreal City (2006)
Riding Pisces: Poems from Five Collections. Translated by Brian Holton, Exeter: Shearsman (2008)