Bill Powers

Bill Powers discusses the interplay between art and politics.

on Nov 9, 2011

"Ripped from the Headlines" is the title of this week's episode, and as luck would have it, Ai Weiwei and guest judge Adam McEwen are both front page news. Or at least they should be. McEwen got famous writing fake New York Times obits for subjects who aren't dead yet, most notably Kate Moss and Bill Clinton. It's a form of memento mori and a way to conflate time. If you are in New York, please do yourself a favor and check out his remarkable exhibition at Marianne Boesky uptown. When I was there for the opening last week, Joan Didion was touring his show. Wow!

If you have been following current events, you may have heard that Chinese artist activist Ai Weiwei raised $840K last week to fight the "tax bill" China is imposing on him to the amount of $2.4 million. According to, "Ai said that he would not treat the money from supporters as donations, but as loans that he would repay." I aspire to be as gracious as this man. He may be the single most important artist alive today, and good for Young to force the paper of record to install a reminder of his plight in their headquarters. I can't wait to see it in person. Ai Weiwei is a hero to all people who believe in freedom of expression. I know an art historian in Chicago who says that MLK and Gandhi might have been the greatest performance artists of the 20th century. We just didn't have the language to describe what they were doing. Ditto for Ai Weiwei fighting the good fight inside the world's next superpower.