Ai Weiwei Sends Empty Chair to Stockholm Fest In His Place

Posted by Brian Brooks on 11.6.2013

Embattled Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei sent an empty chair to the Stockholm Film Festival. The dissident who is one of the world's best known living artists made the gesture in protest of Chinese authorities who have forbidden him to leave the country.

Stockholm, which opened Wednesday, had invited Ai to be on its jury, according to THR, which said that the festival typically includes one spot for a figure from the arts "outside of film." The theme at this year's edition of the 12-day festival in the Swedish capital is "Freedom," spotlighting the fact that "many filmmakers, artists and journalists still during the 2000s are not able to perform their work without the influence of censorship."

Stockholm received the chair last week, which the artist sent from his studio in Beijing where he is virtually under house arrest. Ai designed the chair himself, which is reminiscent of the style of the Ming Dynasty. The chair, however, features a wooden bar across its front, rendering it unusable, according to THR. It will be on full public view at the Skandia Cinema during the duration of the festival running November 6 - 17.

Ai's presence was felt Tuesday during a news conference via a pre-recorded video message. The artist directly confronted his ongoing situation with Beijing authorities noting, "I feel sorry I can't come. That's why I have designed and sent something symbolic. I hope it can give some kind of statement on the way authorities can limit freedom of speech, can limit basic human rights for artists to travel or participate in cultural activities -- very ruthlessly and with no explanation. I'm still living under a kind of soft detention. My passport is still in the authorities' hands."

Ai Weiwei is the subject of Danish filmmaker Andreas Johnsen's later Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case, which looks at the struggles the artist has undergone. The film will debut at the upcoming International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), which opens later this month (FilmLinc will be on hand at IDFA from the Dutch city).

Last year, Ai Weiwei was the focus of another non-fiction film, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, which came out in theaters Stateside.

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