“Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case”: Return of the Trickster

Andreas Johnsen's documentary Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case takes place shortly after Beijing conceptual artist Ai Weiwei was kidnapped and held in secret for 81 days by the Chinese authorities. He returns home under house arrest, during which time Johnsen's film crew has full access and Weiwei is allowed to have visitors, but it mostly seems to be so the authorities can more easily harass him: He's under constant surveillance, and they not only try to eradicate his name from the Chinese internet, they charge his company “Fake Ltd.” with $2.5M in tax evasion. (Curiously, when the authorities order the accountant and manager of the obviously real Fake Ltd. to leave Beijing, nobody can reach said accountant and manager in the first place.) Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case is as much about Weiwei as the shifting roles of repression and dissent in China — his mother observes that during the persecution of intellectuals in 1957, the government likely would have just assassinated Weiwei — and for as understandably weary as he is, he keeps his spirits up, creating a whole new art installation under their noses, and remaining optimistic that this regime will eventually fall. Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case demonstrates a simple truth that repressive governments never quite grasp: Don't fuck with a trickster.

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