Incidental New Yorker IX

October 27, 2015


⭐️ Ai Weiwei has done it again! This man is a true virtuoso at playing the international media. He brilliantly unmasks authorities and hypocrisy by placing a virtual mirror right in their faces and deeds. This time Lego is in the eye of the storm, even a virtual toilet storm, as Ai has posted a picture of Lego bricks being flushed down the drain. Instagram is Ai’s preferred 大字报, Big Character Poster, where he publishes insistently and to a considerable following, which again shares widely. Instagram was where, for three years, we saw the fresh flower bouquet Ai placed daily in a bicycle basket for his minders – the security police that are permanently posted outside his home and study in Beijing. This is where we witnessed the daily skype conversations between Ai and his young son in Germany, while that same Chinese security kept him from travelling to see his son; and where I learnt that Ai finally got his passport back after having been denied one for four years without explanation. We followed his reunion with his son in Germany and a trip to London. When he was back in Beijing he fed us an instagram of how he blew up the listening devices that the authorities had placed in his studio while he was away. And this is where he posted his decision to take up a post as a lecturer of art in Berlin – as well as Lego’s refusal to sell him a bulk order of Lego bricks as Lego does not support political causes (!?!). A few days later Ai Weiwei pointed to the coinciding agreement to build a new Legoland in Shanghai. And now people all over the world are donating Lego bricks to support Ai Weiwei’s artwork for the upcoming joint exhibition with the late Andy Warhol in the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia. The first Lego brick collection point is a red car outside his home and studio in Beijing. And Ai Weiwei once more exposes the hypocrisy that abounds … Even if China’s government is delighted that Lego wouldn’t sell Lego bricks to Ai Weiwei, for once it has no – active – part in this particular dispute.

Collage from Instagram © Mette Holm

👀 Confusion over Confucius …. China’s relative innocence in the controversy between Ai and Lego is by no means indicative of a new and softer line. In fact, China is behind the outrageous decision to award Zimbabwe’s irate leader Robert Mugabe the Confucius Peace Prize – for having “worked hard to bring political and economic order into the country and to improve the welfare” of his people. The prize committee claims to be independent, exactly like the Nobel Peace Prize Committee it was invented to challenge. But as the award ceremony is to take place in the state guesthouse in Beijing, there are ties of sorts to the government. Mugabe on his side is angry that the prize is supposed to be private and is said to have turned it down. The obscure and shadowy prize of which we know very little, was invented in 2010 to counter Nobel’s Peace Prize that year being awarded to prominent intellectual, professor of literature and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo who was – and still is – in solitary confinement serving an 11 year prison term in Liaoning or somewhere far from his home in order to make it particularly difficult for his wife to pay him her one allowed visit a month. So this “alternative” Nobel’s Peace Prize of 80,000 dollars is awarded to a former anti-colonial liberation hero who liberated Rhodesia in 1981, has since turned in to an irate and notorious dictator and in the last 15 years has done everything thing in his power – which is an awful lot – to destroy his lovely Zimbabwe while making life unbearable for the Zimbabweans. The economy is in tatters, as is industry, health, the lot! Shame on him – and on China for honouring him! Mugabe was picked from a shortlist consisting of him, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, both of whom must be relieved not to become laureates for that particular prize.

Am not sure, perhaps this one belongs in Weirdside, but here it is: the official version of China’s new five year plan, 十三五, 13.5.


⭐️ The other day there was a pre-screening over at the UN of Oprah Winfrey’s new series on human belief, Belief. The first of seven or eight, it was a wonderful mosaic of people and what they believe in. I look forward to seeing the rest. I had never met Oprah Winfrey before, only seen a few of her talk shows where everyone seemed to cry. So I was prepared for almost anything. And in strode a short, powerful woman on very high heels, full of fun. She graciously accepted people’s near religious admiration, but at the same was extremely down to earth, not accepting that she be any different from everyone else – other than she had the microphone, and the one with the microphone has the power. And this power is not your own to waste and smother and bathe yourself in; in Oprah’s book it is a huge responsibility to administer and comes with the duty to make the best of it. And this she does, by giving a voice to people that no one normally listens to, by taking their issues to people in power and by producing such a wonderful series as Belief, which I hereby warmly recommend. It was impressive to meet a woman with such a following administering her power so carefully and gracefully.


🌽 Doing my phoney bicycling and walking in the health club belly of our building the other day, CNN had Ivanka Trump and Michael Cohen, an advisor to the father, D. Trump, on to sort of interpret the actions and words of his Trumpness. Asked to comment on his denigrating remarks about women, the daughter said – surprise! – that her father is very blunt, meant no harm and never expresses himself gender specifically. She refused to comment on her fathers’ politics. He does the politics; she the business was the general message. She had just founded an organisation to promote working women to set them free to work as they like, at home taking care of the kids because child care is forbiddingly expensive, or in (her fathers’) business like herself. So it wasn’t to liberate women from house chores, quite the opposite. Cohen, the advisor, did much the same, would in no way interpret his boss’ political statements, but said that his Trumpness was very fair and never went after anyone who doesn’t strike hard. When confronted with a clip where His Trumpness called Bernie Sanders a ‘democrat/communist’ equalling the two, he said that this was only true – which is definitely not the case where I come from. Cohen continued to bad-mouth the democratic debate – and while he was doing so it struck me that both the daughter and the advisor served as his Trumpness’ mullahs, interpreting the words of his very Trumpness for ordinary, lesser people to understand. Very, very interesting …


🇩🇰 Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton mentioned Denmark in the democrats’ debate in Las Vegas. Just as his Trumpness loves China, Hillary C loves Denmark. But not everyone agrees, and it has created quite a stir that Odense Zoo in Denmark dissected a lion for everyone to see. Obviously, the lion wasn’t killed for fun or show; as it was to be put down, why not use the situation for educational purposes, which is what we do in Denmark. Odense Zoo explained very nicely: “Over the recent days we have got many emails, phone calls, personal messages, FB posts and FB messages regarding the lion dissection. Unfortunately we do not have the resources to respond to all of them, and therefore we refer to Odense ZOO’s attitude to dissection.” Some will remember the hysterical international reactions when Marius the Giraffe was put down in Copenhagen Zoo last year. We are not animal murderers in Denmark, certainly not. Pets are popular and very common, dogs, cats, horses, birds and what not. Our zoos are spacious, modern, safe and have many visitors, including for educational purposes. Anyway, one cartoon in a Danish paper on the day when the lion was to be dissected showed an angry American indignantly exclaiming: “Just imagine, teaching children something like that.” The angry man is armed with three sub machine guns and two of his three little children are target shooting, aiming for the heart of a person. The text reads that particularly in the US people are outraged that children are given the option to see the scientific dissecting of animals. Needles to say, Danes are generally outraged that children from the age of four can own and use guns in America.