Ai Weiwei Creates New “Leg Gun” Internet Meme

Ai Weiwei's original Instagram post. Photo: Ai Weiwei/Instagram

Social-media savvy artist and activist Ai Weiwei has created a new meme, and it’s spreading like wildfire on Instagram. On Wednesday afternoon, Ai uploaded a picture of himself holding his own leg like a gun to his widely followed Twitter and Instagram feeds. Since then, he has reposted over 100 photos of people copying the pose. It has all the hallmarks of an Internet fad ready to explode, but the artist, who is known for using social media to voice dissent against the Chinese government’s repressive policies, may have had more serious reasons for creating it than simply to give the kids an alternative to “planking.”

Photo: Ai Weiwei/Instagram

Photo: Ai Weiwei/Instagram.

The Guardian notes that the caption on the original post, which is in Chinese, translates to “Beijing anti-terrorism series.” The British paper believes that this could point to several explanations.

“First, this is a physical subversion of the propaganda paraded across Beijing’s stages since the 1960s,” writes Nell Frizzell. “Second, this is Weiwei’s way of marking the quarter-century anniversary of Beijing’s student-led demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.”

Other bloggers and journalists have speculated that it may be a reference to recent school shootings in the US, or the violent tear gas attacks against protesters in Brazil amid demonstrations over the World Cup. Ai also recently uploaded a picture of dancers in a similar pose from the 1960s Chinese ballet “The Red Detachment of Women,”  a state-sanctioned depiction of a woman’s rise through the Communist party, which is likely a comment on the Chinese government’s continued stranglehold on culture there.

While Ai’s exact intentions remain unknown, it is clear that the meme is here to stay.


Photo: Ai Weiwei/Instagram.


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