Ai Weiwei: ‘My Virtual Life Has Become My Real Life’
In an interview, artist Ai Weiwei spoke to Spiegel about his life under constant surveillance by the Chinese government:
SPIEGEL: What do the people who observe you want to find out, what don’t they know yet?
Ai: A year ago, I got a bit aggressive and pulled the camera off one of them. I took out the memory card and asked him if he was a police officer. He said “No.” Then why are you following me and constantly photographing me? He said, “No, I never did.” I said, “OK, go back to your boss and tell him I want to talk to him. And if you keep on following me, then you should be a bit more careful and make sure that I don’t notice.” I was really curious to see what he had on that memory card.
[...] Ai: I was shocked because he had photographed the restaurant I had eaten in the previous day from all angles: every room, the cash till, the corridor, the entrance from every angle, every table. I asked myself: Gosh, why do they have to go to so much trouble? Then there were photos of my driver, first of him sitting on a park bench, then a portrait from the front, a portrait from the back, his shoes, from the left, from the right, then me again, then my stroller.
[...] SPIEGEL: How do these limitations affect your work?
Ai: It doesn’t really affect me because I work and live in the Internet. My virtual life has become my real life. I was reminded of that again a few days ago: I asked my colleagues to print out everything I’ve written on Twitter in the past three years. [Source]