Frontline: Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei? (Updated: Ai Plans “Partial Move” to Berlin)

Tonight Frontline is going to broadcast a program about artist and activist Ai Weiwei:

An intimate portrait of a man who’s sometimes called China’s Andy Warhol—Ai Weiwei. He’s a global art star who’s now using his international renown, along with a video camera and a growing underground Twitter following, to push the boundaries of freedom in today’s China.

The politically vocal artist is undertaking a precautionary “partial move” to Berlin, according to the Berliner Zeitung (German). English-language German news site The Local translated his comments:

“I want to be in the position to do my daily work, art and exhibitions from Berlin too,” Ai told the paper. “The preparations have been going on for three months, but because creating the necessary infrastructure isn’t that easy in Germany, we still need some time before we can get started.”

But the 53-year-old said he did not view the move as a flight because he would still maintain a studio in Beijing. Still, his work as an online activist for young Chinese has meant increasing pressure on Ai and his employees ….

The decision was “not a voluntary choice,” he said. “I am simply at a loss as to how I can go on working here … Due to the current situation, I should probably increase my presence in Europe,” he said.

Ai also spoke to AFP:

“Most of my activities have been in Europe and I cannot really show my work in China… It’s very discouraging what’s happening here and if I want to continue to develop my work, I have to find a base,” he said.

“But I will stay in Beijing unless the situation is an absolute threat to my life,” he said, adding he had chosen Berlin because of the large community of artists there and the low cost of living.

The increasingly harsh environment in China for critics of the government was most recently demonstrated by the arrests of Yang Hengjun and Ran Yunfei, the latest in a long list of detentions and disappearances.

Read more about Ai Weiwei via CDT, or watch the Frontline episode online.