The film The Fake Case follows Ai Weiwei, one of China’s greatest artists, just after he spent several months in solitary detention. Screened during the What Design Can Do Film Festival on 2 May in De Balie, the documentary explores the way the Chinese authorities sabotaged Ai’s personal and professional life, and democracy and cultural freedom in general.

By Rozemarijn Koopmans

In 2011, Ai Weiwei was detained and accused of tax evasion at Beijing Airport while on his way to Hong Kong. Shortly after, his wife’s business was raided, his staff were detained and interrogated, while Weiwei himself was kept isolated for 81 days. The Fake Case follows his after his release and shows how the authorities in China consistently obstruct his quest for artistic freedom and human rights.

Pink airplanes

Ai’s alleged (and unproven) tax evasion led to a chain of events that affected his personal and public life. The case against him was obscure in many ways, and seemed to centre on his potential revolutionary influence on China’s younger generations. In The Fake Case, his career as an artist almost becomes secondary to his role as a popular figure.

As Ai Weiwei was prohibited from exhibiting in China, he focused on making new pieces for exhibitions and institutions abroad. The Fake Case switches between the constant police surveillance and his efforts to remain creative. This is clear from his preparations for S.A.C.R.E.D., a massive sculpture comprising six boxes that represent aspects of his confinement. Another scene shows him stealing an ashtray from the men sent to spy on him and repurposing it as a work of art — a fine example of him becoming the subject of his own work.

Ai Weiwei, whom we see very up close and personal with his son and family, is presented with a fine of nearly $1,5 million. To show their support, Chinese people fly little pink paper airplanes, each made of a 100-yean note, over the wall of his studio, along with a flood of donations and anonymous letters.

That’s what makes the footage in The Fake Case so significant. Ai Weiwei doesn’t need any more recognition on the international art scene, but his importance to contemporary society in his native country needs maximum exposure.

The Fake Case
May 2nd 2014, 21:15h.

De Balie
Kleine-Gartmanplantsoen 10
Amsterdam
020 5535100

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