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How Ai Weiwei, bit by bit, overcomes the Chinese surveillance state

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Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei
Flickr / Imagens Portal SESCSP

Ai Weiwei is one of the most highly-regarded, controversial artists of his time. In the West, he is viewed as China's preeminent artist and cultural critic; his written and visual work has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times over, and he currently enjoys a new exhibit, Ai Weiwei: According to What?at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. (You should go if you get the chance.) However, his reach in China is considerably more limited — since domestic media cannot even utter his name, most people there simply don't know who he is. And because the government holds his passport, Ai can't leave the country, all while the authorities constantly keep tabs on him. However, as Aeon Magazine reports, Ai's art is perfectly suited for the situation. By taking a picture of fresh flowers everyday and posting them online, he's engaging in a form of gentle but powerful protest. "Today, protest doesn’t have to be a walk on the street or hold[ing] a banner," he says, "but a statement of existing, repeatedly re-announcing your position." Read Ai Weiwei's entire profile at Aeon.