Interview on “303 Signatures” Painting and Charter 08

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Why did you paint this massive piece?

I was attracted to the story of Liu Xiabo and the creation of Charter 08.  This goes back to the terrible tradegy of 1989 and how the Communist Chinese government decided to literally run over the unarmed civilian protesters with tanks rather than reform.  At the same time I had seen the peaceful transition of Poland from communism in 1989.

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Why was Charter 08 written?

In the events of the 2008 Earthquakes and the scandals of collapsed children’s schools, people started to investigate the scandals of corrupt politicians and builders colluding for profit at the expanse of children’s death.  Ai Weiwei was one of the principal independent investigators into this tragedy.

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He created a massive display of backpacks construed into a mural.  The backpacks represented the 5000 children that perished in the earthquakes and shoddy schools. The mandarin in the work talks about the feelings of the mother of a victim.

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“She lived happily for seven years in this world”

How did the government react to Ai Weiwei’s investigation and show?

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Well, typical of the single-minded task of the CCP, they bull-dozed his $1 million studio in Beijing. They claimed he didn’t have a permit to the building code.  Its ironic that the CCP chose to actively destroy his studio while covering up their complicity in shoddy building destruction leading up to children’s deaths by mother nature.

How did other intellectuals respond to the Earthquake disaster?

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Several writers gathered and produced the document called Charter 08.  This document was based on similar historical documents like the Bill of Rights and Charter 77.  Charter 77 was written by reformists in Communist Czechoslovakia that led eventually to the regime’s collapse in 1989. The Bill of Rights in the US was to balance the powers of the state, federal power and the individual.

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Liu Xiabo was one of the principal writers and signers of the document.  Originally signed by 303 people and then presented to the CCP ruling party.  The document asked for the following reforms:

Amending the Constitution

Separation of Powers

Legislative democracy

Independent Judiciary

Public control of public servants

Guarantee of  Human Rights

Election of public officials

Abolition of Hukou System

Freedom of Association

Freedom of Assembly

Freedom of Expression

Freedom of Religion

Civic Education

Free Markets and Private Property Protection

Financial and tax reform

Social Security

Protection of the envronment

A federated republic

Truth in reconciliation

Each of these 19 main points of the document are in the painting.  There are a total of 76 characters, which symbolically refers to the US liberation of 1776 as well.

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How did the Communist party respond?

They immediately rounded up Liu Xiabo and several signers.  Liu Xiabo was eventually sent to prison for “inciting subversion of state power” for 11 years.  So fearful are the authorities of these 19 points of written reform.

How did the world respond?

Liu Xiabo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.  All representatives of Liu were blocked from attending and accepting the award on his behalf.  Over 10,000 people have signed online the Charter 08 since the original 303 signed.

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Have other winners been blocked by their governments from accepting the Nobel Peace Prize?

Yes in 1935 Hitler kept Carl von Ossietzky in prison. In 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi was kept away by Burmese military government.  This gives you an idea of the type of government Chinese people live under.

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How long did it take to paint this work?

Yes, it took up to 6 weeks.  My wife almost had a heart attack saying, “it’s blocking all the light!” continually.  I started with the red layer representing the strong red of traditional Chinese painting and pot paintings.  Then I painted a gigantic 303 in gold.  Then I painted the whole thing in black and eventually formed abstract shaped over the painting.  My next stage was to cut out each of the red characters.  My final stage was to paint most of the 303 signatures, over 900 characters, around the entire frame of the painting.

Are there other symbols in the painting?

Yes, the characters line up into 8 rows and 10 columns. In China, the year 08 for the Olympics came to represent the pinacle of luck as known in chinese numerology.  The tragedy of the 08 Earthquakes wiped out the good PR from the Olympics to expose the political corruption under the surface.  This painting hopes to capture the meaning of Charter 08 and the hope of Chinese people to reform their government into a modern democracy with respect for human and individual rights.

Is this work available?

Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact

Interview on “What a Jasmine!” painting

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So what is this painting about?

This painting was done in response to Ai Weiwei getting arrested by the Chinese police over one tweet! He was sent to jail for several months for tax evasion right after this tweet.

What did he actually tweet?

“I didn’t care about jasmine at first, but people who are scared by jasmine sent out information about how harmful jasmine is often, which makes me realize that jasmine is what scares them the most. What a jasmine!”

Why do you think the CCP authorities responded so harshly?

This was only the cherry on the sundae so to say. As the Arab Spring started to awaken across the whole Middle East, China was blocking any news from the entire area to avoid a rise up in China. There were a few risings in China, which was called the Jasmine Revolution after the tea. The CCP censor then blocked any reference to tea, Jasmine, Arab Spring, revolution on any social media.

Is this the first time they used such drastic censorship?

They lightened up a bit during the 2008 Olympics, but got the feeling they got their fingers burned opening up, since all the protests about Tibet poured in globally as they toured the Olympic torch under guard– the only tour under guard ever. Not even Hitler was that paranoid in the 1936 Olympics! Hitler tried to prove race superiority, but was thrown astray by US runner Jesse Owens.

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After US swimmer Michael Phelps crushed the Chinese 2008 Olympics with 8 Gold medals, China said he was a “fish” and tried to accuse him of doping after having entered several underage kids in gymnastics. You see the parallels?

You can see earlier versions of Chinese news censorship during various US elections, they only put up the likely winner candidate and no other photo to minimize the feel of freedom in democracy. Chinese citizens never got to even see any face but Obama as if he was appointed as in China.

What does the lettering in the painting say?

ShawNshawN says…
Ai Weiwei says…
Confuscious says…
Chiang Chai-shek says…
Mao says…
Dalai lama says…
Drink Tea!

What are the various elements in the painting?

The main letting “Drink Tea!” had a background of a popular Jasmine tea in Hong Kong on the left. On the right the background is an image of Mao as the Cool-Aid man saying “Drink!” in a funny commercialization. It is a way of toning down the crimes against humanity under Mao with his image used in pop art.

Putin has done the same recently in Russia with his ridiculous poses in every possible Russian sport to hide his blunt use of power.

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In the white lettering is the outline of the Bird’s Nest stadium that Ai Weiwei helped consult on. At that time, Ai Weiwei was a celebrated artist by the regime as the modern face of China. Ai Weiwei later distanced himself from this project.

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Why did you get interested in the Ai Weiwei?

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Well, I had been interested in Ai Weiwei since his infamous backpack art display. He had investigated the deaths of child students in the Sichuan earthquake, who died due to shoddy construction techniques in their school buildings. The CCP tried to block the investigation, but Ai Weiwei gathered all the names of the victims to list in his studio in Beijing. Later the CCP bull dozed his studio for being illegal.

 

Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact