Working architect and co-founder of the Research Institute for Experimental Architecture, Lebbeus Woods has vowed to reject all new work offers in China until Beijing-based artist and architect Ai Weiwei is released following his detention this weekend. Ai Weiwei was detained as he attempted to board a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong with his PA Jennifer Ng.
A note on Woods’ personal blog states: “The Light Pavilion by me and Christoph a. Kumpusch is already under construction in Chengdu, China. I here state publically that I will not accept another project in China until Ai Weiwei is released unharmed from detention or imprisonment.”
Subsequent to the detention of the artist, his studio was allegedly stormed by the authorities who removed a series of documents and technical equipment including computers and hard drives, and took a number of employees into questioning. Officials are also thought to have visited the premises three times in the week leading up to Ai Weiwei’s detention.
The artist’s wife, Lu Qing told the Associated Press: “There is no news of him so far. They asked me about Ai Weiwei’s work and the articles he posted online...I told them that everything that Ai did was very public, and if they wanted to know his opinions and work they could just look at the internet.” An anonymous employee of Ai Weiwei's confirmed: “It’s not clear what they are looking for, but we’re all really terrified.”
Unwaveringly outspoken in his views against the Chinese Government, it is thought that Ai Weiwei has been protected to some extent by his high profile position in the artistic community – himself an internationally successful artist and architect, his father a respected poet – however recent events have led rights activists to insinuate that authorities are no longer influenced by an dissident’s social standing. Tens of activists and dissidents have ‘gone missing’ over the last few weeks, including Chinese-American writer Yang Hengjun and human rights lawyer Liu Zhengqing
A contributor to the intricately designed Bird’s Nest Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Ai Weiwei is no stranger to run-ins with the Chinese authorities. In August last year WAN reported an alleged attack on the artist by plain-clothed police, who are said to have landed Ai Weiwei in hospital where he underwent surgery to remove fluid from his brain. This attack is thought to have been related to trial of Tan Zuoren – a local rights activist and friend of Ai Weiwei’s.