Compare Ai Weiwei (designer of the Birds Nest stadium in Beijing) to, I dunno (Wikies at random), this glorified theme park for pretentious adults:
Ai has always been a cussed, provocative figure. He took a series of photographs, Study in Perspective, in which he flicks his middle finger obscenely at the White House, Tiananmen Square, the Eiffel Tower. He painted the Coca-Cola logo on a 5,000-year-old Neolithic vase. But lately his political activism has acquired a new urgency. The day before we meet he was roughed up by plain-clothed police in Sichuan province, where he was making an official complaint about a more serious beating last year in which he received a grave head injury. (The boy who answers the door to me is wearing a campaign T-shirt printed with Ai’s brain scan.) The focus of his art/activism since 2008 has been the Sichuan earthquake, in which an estimated 90,000 people died or disappeared. A disproportionate number of them were children, killed by the collapse of their poorly constructed schools. There was no official inquiry: it was dismissed as a natural tragedy, the Government telling parents who had lost — thanks to the one-child policy — their whole families, they would receive compensation only if they signed a contract agreeing to stay silent. Those who raised questions about the construction of the school buildings were treated by the Chinese authorities with contempt, violence and imprisonment.
What most shocked Ai was the official refusal even to release the dead children’s names. Countless phone calls to every tier of the Government were stonewalled. So, via his blog, he recruited volunteers who went door-to-door across Sichuan. The result is a list of almost 6,000 names, detailing dead children aged between 3 and 19, their addresses and schools. It covers an entire wall of his office. And as an artistic counterpoint, Ai created Remembrance out of children’s backpacks — which he saw discarded in the debris of the collapsed schools — spelling out in Chinese characters a quote from a bereaved mother: “She lived happily for seven years in this world.”
The bit about the Olympics is very interesting, too. £.