Ai Weiwei, the renowned radical artist whose works and social media presence have routinely drawn the ire of the Chinese government, has announced his latest project: a heavy metal album. Titled Divina Commedia after Dante's famous poem and referencing the "Ai-God" nickname given to him by his supporters, Ai says the album was inspired by the 81 days of detention which followed his sudden kidnapping by the Chinese government in 2011. His disappearance sparked international outrage both within and without the art world, where his works (like the above Study in Perspective) have been widely acclaimed as pushing the envelope against China's authoritarian regime.
"When I was arrested, [the prison guards] would often ask me to sing songs, but because I wasn't familiar with music, I was embarrassed," Ai tells Reuters. "All I could sing was Chinese People's Liberation Army songs... After that I thought: when I'm out, I'd like to do something related to music."
The album will include two songs dedicated to Chinese civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who despite being blind was able to escape house arrest and flee to the protection of the US embassy in Beijing, where he and his family later received visas and escaped to New York City. Another track, called "Great Firewall of China," takes aim at the country's infamously efficient internet censorship system.
"You'll be surprised. You'll like it."
Ai has faced persecution by the Chinese government for his subversive views in the past, but believes his place as an international figure has helped protect him from some of the more extreme repercussions of his dissent. Similarly, he says he's not worried that the album, which will be out in three weeks time, will cause him any trouble with the government. But he doesn't have much hope that censorship laws will allow the record to be available anywhere inside China, opting to sell online instead.
"I'm a person that's furthest away from music, I never sing," Ai said. "But you'll be surprised. You'll like it." There's no telling how far Ai will be taking his new-found talent, but in our blackest dreams we're silently squealing for a special guest appearance alongside Pig Destroyer or Mastodon.