Welcome to the Evolving Man Project’s ‘Evolved Man of the Week’ profiles. Each week we will highlight an individual that embodies what it means to be an evolved man, famous and non-famous men alike. The world needs to know their stories and deeds. This week’s honor goes to artist, architect, filmmaker, activist, blackjack aficionado, and international human rights icon, Ai Weiwei.
Born in Beijing, China in 1957 to activist parents during the Cultural Revolution. Ai Weiwei found himself in the United States where he studied English at University of Pennsylvania, and University of California at Berkeley. He relocated to New York City and studied briefly at the Parson School of Design. He dropped out of school and become a street artist. This would lead him to connect with unique and ever-changing New York art scene and befriend poet Allen Ginsberg. He would return to China in 1993 and work as a prominent architect whose work includes the famous “Bird’s Nest‘ stadium featured at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In 2005, Ai Weiwei started writing for the blog Sina Weibo. For four years, Ai wrote articles critical of the Chinese government policies, social commentary critical of how citizens are treated, and his thoughts on art and architecture. After the Sichuan earthquake. Ai led a team of survey and film crew to highlight the post-quake conditions in various disaster zones. This sparked the “Citizens’ Investigation. This led him to be a target of the Chinese government and police forces. He was placed under house arrest in 2010. Ai would escape the Chinese Government’s watchful eye and relocate to Berlin, Germany where he now resides.
He is the Artistic Director of the China Art Archives and Warehouse. He’s been featured in Time Magazine and The GQ Man of the Year in 2009. He served as a guest lecturer at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design and received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Ghent, Belguim. He also serves as a visiting professor at Berlin University of the Arts. He’s the winner of numerous awards and honors, including The Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award, and Chinese Contemporary Art Award-Lifetime Achievement is among others awards.
Here is Ai Weiwei reflecting on his life journey, both his triumphs and hardships:
“Of course you are human – you sometimes wonder these things. But I still think I would choose exactly the same path, even though the steps that I have taken have been very hard. It has been so ugly, so painful, but it has also brought so much joy. I think I’m a person who finds joy through difficulty…No difficulty, no joy.”
Today we honor Ai Weiwei has our Evolved Man of the Week.