Want to smash some shit? Go to AiWeiweiWhoops.Net. Why? When painter Maximo Caminero threw and shattered an Ai Weiwei’s artwork in Miami last week, we didn’t buy his excuse: “I saw Ai Weiwei’s photos behind the vases where he drops an ancient Chinese vase and breaks it. And I saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest.” Ai Weiwei responded, condemning the act and sounding somewhat reasonable: “Damaging other people’s property or disturbing a public program doesn’t really support his cause… You cannot stand in front of a classical painting and kill somebody and say that you are inspired by” the artist.
And then, you realize that Ai’s own work was, in essence, a vandalized 2,000-year-old Han Dynasty Urn, a cultural artifacts that he often paints over and smashes in “an attempt to elucidate the role of destruction in art and culture.” According to Grayson Earle:
Many art theorists are left to wonder if Weiwei ought to have exclusive rights to art vandalism, or if the culturally situated context is significantly different in each instance to grant Ai’s position.
Considering the smashing of Ai’s urn in the context of cyberspace helps to interrogate what role Benjamin’s notion of aura [read: scarcity] plays in all of this. Would Ai take offense to the destruction of digital representations of his work, or is it the loss of material, valuable property that provoked his response?
What he said. Now go to AiWeiweiWhoops.Net, digitally smash all the Ai Weiwei urns you want and watch the approximate property damage stack up.