China didn't want to lose the cutting edge of technology. So the idea of having a Sina Weibo was an attempt to compete with Twitter. However, it has no soul - which is freedom of expression. Nevertheless, I think the government regrets having Sina Weibo, but they cannot shut it down. That would definitely be suicidal.
To experience poetry is to see over and above reality. It is to discover that which is beyond the physical, to experience another life and another level of feeling. It is to wonder about the world, to understand the nature of people and, most importantly, to be shared with another, old or young, known or unknown.
Censorship is saying: 'I'm the one who says the last sentence. Whatever you say, the conclusion is mine.' But the internet is like a tree that is growing. The people will always have the last word - even if someone has a very weak, quiet voice. Such power will collapse because of a whisper.
China has not established the rule of law and if there is a power above the law there is no social justice. Everybody can be subjected to harm. I'm just a citizen: my life is equal in value to any other. But I'm thankful that when I lost my freedom so many people shared feelings and put such touching effort into helping me.
At different times I've worked in different mediums. For me, the variation is not an artistic judgment, but a necessary choice. It's just as normal to eat with chopsticks, as it is to eat with forks or hands. Different circumstances call for different tools. I try to express ideas with the most appropriate available materials and forms. Very often the medium comes first, and then my reasons for it. Sometimes, I work with a medium I don't like out of curiosity. It is an experiment to challenge my pre-existing concepts and tastes. I've taken hundreds and thousands of photographs, and it's not because I like the medium. I wanted something to parallel my daily activities, and photography is the most logical way of doing that. I filmed documentaries because the medium reflects real conditions the most completely. I don't think artists should only work with what is handiest and most familiar, because the unfamiliar provides a challenge, and it creates another language. It defines the condition for new possibilities.
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For all the tough talk about China during the presidential debates, Romney and Obama evaded any mention of China's suspect human rights record, corruption, and rule of law. By not tackling these controversial topics, the candidates are protecting a strategic partnership with China at the expense of essential human values and beliefs.
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Widespread state control over art and culture has left no room for freedom of expression in the country. For more than 60 years, anyone with a dissenting opinion has been suppressed. Chinese art is merely a product: it avoids any meaningful engagement. There is no larger context. Its only purpose is to charm viewers with its ambiguity.
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I was in the most restricted prison in China, the most tough. The design of the prison is modeled for internal crimes of the Communist party, so it's like a mafia family's law. It's independent to the law this nation openly applies. It's the place they take you before they give you over to the judicial system. You stay there for a year or two and they make you really suffer to confess everything.
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Many people I know - writers, poets - they have all been sentenced not once but sometimes three times after they come out. They serve five or six years, come out another time, and then nine years. Come out again, 12 years. Only because they have a different opinion. They are innocent people, they have beautiful minds, beautiful hearts.
I see the Beijing National Stadium as an architectural project. I accepted Herzog and De Meuron's invitation to collaborate on the design, and our proposal won the competition. From beginning to end, I stayed with the project. I am committed to fostering relationships between a city and its architecture.
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For artists and intellectuals today, what is most needed is to be clear about social responsibility, because that is what most people automatically give up. Just to protect yourself as an individual is very political. You don't have to march on Tiananmen, but you do have to be clear-minded, to find your own means of expression.
The idea to use backpacks came from my visit to Sichuan after the earthquake in May 2008. During the earthquake many schools collapsed. Thousands of young students lost their lives, and you could see bags and study material everywhere. Then you realize individual life, media, and the lives of the students are serving very different purposes. The lives of the students disappeared within the state propaganda, and very soon everybody will forget everything.
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Warhol came from an ordinary family and he had a profound understanding about capitalism and material culture. He was probably one of the few Western artists - or artists from the United States - that could be considered a true product of his time and brought out that kind of spirit of the culture.
We see the tendency in the world to criticise democracy and sometimes even to say that authoritarian countries like China are more efficient. That is very short-sighted. China looks efficient only because it can sacrifice most people's rights. This is not something the west should be happy about.
We should leave behind discrimination, because it is narrow-minded and ignorant, denies contact and warmth, and corrodes mankind's belief that we can better ourselves. The only way to avoid misunderstanding, war, and bloodshed is to defend freedom of expression and to communicate with sincerity, concern, and good intentions.
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My definition of art has always been the same. It is about freedom of expression, a new way of communication. It is never about exhibiting in museums or about hanging it on the wall. Art should live in the heart of the people. Ordinary people should have the same ability to understand art as anybody else. I don't think art is elite or mysterious. I don't think anybody can separate art from politics. The intention to separate art from politics is itself a very political intention.
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Once I was in New York, I completely had no interest for a long time in what happened in China because I had been through so much. Seeing my father's life struggle and so many whole generations lose their potential or possibility in their lives. Just being pushed into this political struggle and the damage done not only to their lives but their relatives.
The deadly weapon against totalitarian society is openness - doing everything very openly on the Internet, letting people know every detail, any little development. Once it is out there, everybody can make their own judgement. [Therefore] holding a trial outside the court. I think that is fairness, that is justice, that is a civil society. Otherwise call it an evil society because everything is hidden.
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If I walk on the street, if I go to a restaurant, people come to me and say: "Can we take a photo together? Can you give me your autograph?" They would bring their expensive Armani or Prada wallet to sign. Other people who are desperate show me a photo of their dead daughter and ask: Can you support me? I tell them: How can I? Morally, of course, I sympathize with you. But I cannot support you and you cannot support me. This is the condition of this society. We are separated.
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If we all say the same thing, then I think the government has to listen. But because no one is saying it, I become singled out, even though what I'm saying is common sense. It's very essential values that we all have to protect. But in Chinese society, people are giving up on protecting these values.
I always thought that in modern history Chinese people are like a dish of sand, never really close together. But I think a dish of sand is a good metaphor because we have the Internet. We don't have to be physically united. You can be an individual and have your own set of values but join others in certain struggles. There is nothing more powerful than that.
To survive, China had to open up to the West. It could not survive otherwise. This was after many millions have died of hunger in a country that was like North Korea is today. Once we became part of global competition, we had to agree to some rules. It's painful, but we had to. Otherwise there was no way to survive.