This week’s big story? Well, that would have to be the “release”, on Wednesday, after 60 days of detention of noted Chinese dissident, Ai Weiwei (We’d draw your attention to our original coverage here). Once again, Hypoallergic.com are doing a pretty good job of keeping track of all the breaking news. Edward Wong’s Wednesday New York Times article can be found here.
“I’m released, I’m home, I’m fine”, the artist is quoted as saying (in English). “In legal terms, I’m – how do you say – on bail. So I cannot give any interviews. But I’m fine.” Wong quotes Jerome A Cohen, “a scholar of the Chinese legal system”, on the legal concept of qubao houshen” “(which) usually mean(s) that the detainee had agreed to limitations on his or her behavior, and that the case could be quietly dropped if the detainee adheres to that agreement and other compromises made. Legally, the police can continue to pursue the case for up to one year. During that time, the suspect is allowed freedom of movement, but the police generally hold on to the person’s travel documents.”
and here’s Alexa Olesen’s AP story, the following day, pointedly titled: “Chinese artist Ai Weiwei: Free in body, not voice”.
As Amnesty International‘s Deputy Director for the Asia Pacific, Catherine Baber, importantly observes, Ai Weiwei’s is by no means an isolated case:
“Ai Weiwei is one of over 130 activists, lawyers, bloggers and tweeters detained since February in a sweeping crackdown on dissent prompted by government fears of a “Jasmine Revolution” inspired by the Middle East and North Africa”. “It is vital that the international outcry over Ai Weiwei be extended to those activists still languishing in secret detention or charged with inciting subversion”.
Baber notes that four of Ai Weiwei’s associates – his friend Wen Tao, the accountant Hu Mingfen, the designer Liu Zhenggang, and his (Ai Weiwei’s) cousin and driver Zhang Jinsong, all still remain in custody (Zhang Jinsong, it has subsequently been learnt, has been freed).
“While Ai Weiwei’s release is an important step”, the organization declares, he must now be granted his full liberty, and not be held in illegal house arrest, as has been the pattern with so many others recently released from arbitrary detention.”
Interestingly, next week, in New York, an exhibition of Ai Weiwei’s New York photos (including the above image with Allen – note William Burroughs image on the books) had been scheduled to open, and will be opening, at the Asia Society, “over 200 photos on view for the first time outside China”. The exhibition is accompanied by a 316-page comprehensive catalogue with plates of all the photographs, along with essays and interviews, published by Three Shadows Photography Art Center in Beijing, co-sponsors of the show with the Asia Society.
Other news. Well, it’s Friday, so it’s a miscellanea. More New York activities. Bob Holman’s GTO’s (Ginsberg Turn On’s), which we’ve mentioned before, continue to take place at the Bowery Poetry Club. Allen’s secretary, Bob Rosenthal, was a recent participant. His’ll be added to the archive of GTO videos available here.
Here comes the future. Viking/Penguin introduced this week the “amplified edition” of On The Road – the Kerouac “app” – a truly portable format with innumerable “bells and whistles”. David Ulin in the LA Times has more on it and its technological implications here – “There’s a certain poetic justice”, he writes, “in the fact that (it) is (almost immediately) one of Apple’s top-grossing book-apps. Released on Saturday..(and) featuring a variety of enriched content, including commentary, maps, audio recordings, and other ephemera, (it) hit number 4 on Apple’s list on Tuesday, ahead of the Bible and T.S.Eliot’s “The Waste Land”. That’s a testament to the power of the digital project, but also to the novel which has occupied a visionary place in the culture..”.
That Ted Berrigan/Allen Ginsberg postcard, by the way, that graced last week’s Friday Round-Up, sold for the curiously specific price of $493.98 (following 12 bids), a “steal” (even at that price, we believe, just under 500 dollars).
Here’s an odd note – students at a Washington State Funeral Service Education program have been practicing on a wax model of Allen’s skull! (“crafting the elongated ears”!). See here for more on this bizarre, but actually inspiring, story.
Gay pride month (LGBTQ History Month) – we’ll have more on this next week – but here‘s one diarist on the influential political blog, The Daily Kos – “honor(ing) and pay(ing) tribute to Allen Ginsberg” – “Thank you Allen Ginsberg. Thank you for being openly out and gay and thank you for your poetry and activism”.