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Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Uses 10,000 River Crabs to “celebrate” forced demolition of his US$1.1 million-dollar-studio in Shanghai

Posted by Author on November 2, 2010, Nov. 2, 2010 –

Artist, social commentator and activist Ai Weiwei has announced that in honor of the government-ordered demolition of his new Shanghai studio, he will give 10,000 river crabs (and plenty of baijiu, of course) to his supporters.

According to Ai, he was invited by the city mayor to build a studio in northern area of Shanghai, which he did, constructing a studio worth a reported US$1.1 million. However, following his recent political activities documenting the plight of lawyer Feng Zhenghu and support of Liu Xiaobo, city officials recently declared the structure illegal, condemning it to demolition.
“It’s all very strange,” Ai told The Daily Telegraph. “This guy [the mayor] flew to Beijing twice to personally invite me to build the studio [in Shanghai] and have one or two artists based there so they could build up the new art district. Now they say they want to knock it down. The local officials say the word has come from above and they’re ‘sorry, but they can’t do anything about it — you have to destroy it’, and no further explanation.”

“November 7 is ‘River Crab Fest’ at Ai Weiwei’s Shanghai studio,” he wrote in a post on Twitter.

Other than kindly dolling out an autumn specialty to those close to Ai, the artist was publicizing a common Chinese pun on the word “harmonize.” The term is a common euphemism for government censorship. It also sounds like the Chinese word for river crab.

A representative for Ai confirmed the details of the event for AFP.

During the Expo, the Shanghai city government had put a halt to all major demolition and construction projects, but with the Expo closing ceremony over, stalled projects have resumed, and Ai’s studio is a priority on the bulldozer’s “to-do” list.

Ai is well-known in China for his controversial investigation of the collapse of schoolhouses in Sichuan during the 2008 earthquake and his collaboration with Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, on the Bird’s Nest for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

As Ai is based in Beijing, it’s unclear if he’ll attend the party in person.

The location of Ai Weiwei’s studio is listed on his Twitter feed.

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