Chinese contemporary artist and political activist Ai Weiwei is exchanging conceptual art for high-volume rifferama.
Ai is highly regarded for his sculpture and installation work, including collapsed building piece Template and his iconic Sunflower Seeds project, featuring 100 million hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds. Most recent coverage, however, has been related to his status a victim of state oppression in China: he was forcibly detained for over three months in 2011, and has been hit with numerous tax charges which supporters claim are politically motivated.
In the last year, Ai has repeatedly dabbled with music: a video of him performing the Gangnam dance went viral, and Elton John has become a high-profile friend and supporter. As The Guardian report, he’s about to indulge his musical impulses by releasing an album of “heavy metal”.
The nine-track album will see Ai collaborate with musician and friend Zuoxiao Zuzhou. According to Ai, the tracks are a mixed bag: “Some are like heavy metal, some are more punkish, and some are more pop”. The record will also come with cover art and supplementary video work from Ai.
According to Ai, his new direction is rooted in his experiences of political persecution:
“To tell you the truth, I never listened to music. Then, during my detention, the guards were so bored they kept saying to me, ‘Can you sing a song?'” felt so sad I couldn’t sing any except the revolutionary ones we had to learn when we were growing up … It would have made the time seem much shorter. After I came out, I realised I had never really listened to music or sung, so I decided to make an album. I know so many artists and musicians and they were really supportive.”
A second album is also apparently in the works, although it sounds like the emphasis will be on low-lit lovers’ jams: “It’s more like love songs; it will be softer than the first. There’s no heavy metal on that one”.