Ai Weiwei's Beijing Studio Was Bugged - Again
Twisted fibers lurking in electrical sockets, microphones, and a 6-volt electrical transmitter – welcome back to Beijing. Returning from London on his first trip in nearly four years, artist and Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei came home to find his Beijing studio tapped and bugged.
The artist posted pictures of the devices on Instagram and Twitter on Sunday, showing an exposed sea of colored wires in tow with tiny receivers and transmitters. The artist also posted a video tampering with the equipment, lighting fireworks beside the exposed socket and asking listening authorities – can you hear that?
And Chinese authorities definitely can. They’re listening, and have been for what’s assumed to be many years now. In a long, strained relationship with the government, a few microphones in the wall is nothing new for the artist who’s fallen repeatedly under the eyes of the Chinese government.
Four years ago, following a Kafkaesque arrest, an 81 day detainment, and a slew of unanswered questions, Weiwei was released without reason or charge. Since his arrest and subsequent passport suspension, the artist has found a number of sneaky hidden gadgets. Prior to this incident, the artist met the eyes of several cameras outside his studio. The latest findings inside the studio suggest that this equipment was installed around the same time.
The latest discovery — and firework fun — was a greater source of play than threat to the artist who has frequently used similar incidents for creative momentum. When the surveillance equipment was found outside the studio a few years back, it was draped in beautiful lanterns. Then, on the first anniversary of his arrest in 2011, Weiwei made a 24-hour live video art piece documenting himself in his home. In a similar vein, the artist has collaborated with others, including US hacker Jacob Appelbaum, in a continuous motion to explore ideas of observation and surveillance.
Renowned for his political critique and media saturated installments, the latest incident may just be more fodder for the fire and the beginning of a new politically charged project.
Stay tuned to Milk for updates.
Imagery via Ai Weiwei’s Instagram and Kon Bini