Ai Weiwei Headlines New Book of Interviews

BOOK EXCERPT: Ai Weiwei traces his success to being a "nobody" and an early riser.


Last August, the author interviewed Ai Weiwei for his book Motive: Interviewing 23 Art Individuals, to be published in both English and Chinese by China International Press on August 5th. artnet News is pleased to be publishing this advance preview, the first excerpt from this new collection.

Shaun Wang: What is the ultimate purpose of your doing so many social practices via the arts? Do you want to highlight your identity as an artist? Or do you want to emphasize something else more important than the identity?
Ai Weiwei: I am not like the traditional artist who may believe that they are “creators of something special”. I am nobody. The works I have made are nothing in value. They are empty, and I can use anything, any forms, in my work.  I am not a genius. I never believed I am. I have my own limitations, which make my works possess some feature and forms. I am always changing, so are my artworks. Your works are one of your purposes, which are in the process of change. But all in all, the important thing is to be yourself. Being an artist is a chance to express yourself.

Shaun Wang:I know that you are interested in many things, such as architecture, design, writing books, singing, dancing and creating documentary films. I also want to be someone like you. With so many interests, do you think it’s very exhausting?
Ai Weiwei: Your achievements will be more than mine. Your generation is very good at knowledge acquisition, and also have learnt many things earlier than our generation has. More than 10 years in our earlier life is omitted, because to some extent they were useless (to some extent probably they mean something in our future). You are surrounded by so much information, and you have more freedoms. But anyway, you need to find your own character, which is the most important.

Shaun Wang:I have heard that you get up very early every day. What prompts you to work so hard? Where did you get so much driving force?
Ai Weiwei: Yes, I am the first worker who walks into the studio and the last one to leave. All my colleagues know that. Every morning I wake them up, I know they like sleeping in. I consider all I do as accumulations in my life. You can just think about it this way: If you can use 4 extra hours doing your things, you will go farther than others. My driving force is that I am happy to do that and am interested in doing them. I am curious about everything; I can even find fun in seeing a photo, listening to a song, or even seeing other people writing something. Interests and curiosity are the most important thing.

So just go ahead with your interests. I started my interests in photography and economics. No one knows what will happen next, so just try. Maybe now I am a little bit more successful, but I have my own troubles, just like everyone does.

Excerpted from Motive: Interviewing 23 Art Individuals, by Shaun Wang. Copyright © 2014 by the author and reprinted by permission of China International Press.

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