Chinese Artist and Political Activist Ai Weiwei’s “Dumbass” is an Amazing Example of Metal as Political Protest

  • Axl Rosenberg

Ai Weiwei

In 2011, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was arrested and detained for eighty-one days, allegedly for tax evasion, but really for speaking out against his government. He was psychologically tortured in prison. His wife was also detained and interrogated; the mother of his child was questioned; his studio was ransacked; members of his staff were arrested, or worse, in some cases just disappeared, and one, his assistant, is still missing. This is the kind of thing that makes comments by guys like Ted Nugent and Dave Mustaine about how President Barack Obama is some kind of fascist not just stupid, but extremely tasteless: they can say shit like that all they want, and the only thing that’s going to happen to them is that dudes like me are going to make fun of them on the internet. They will never actually be forcefully made to suffer the way Ai Weiwei has been forcefully made to suffer.

Ai Weiwei has now released a debut video and single, “Dumbass,” chronicling his time in prison (and fantasies about the fantasies of his guards) via a full-scale recreation of the room in which he was held. The song is dubiously being called metal — although it has some Tool-esque qualities in the music, I don’t really think I would have classified it as metal if someone had just played it for me. And honestly, I can’t stand the vocals (although I’d be the first to admit that my Western ears are not at all used to this Eastern style of singing). But Ai Weiwei’s experience lends the music and the video a certain heft that’s lacking from most other music — even that of the political variety. As MetalSucks contributor and The Austerity Program co-captain Justin Foley put it to me via e-mail, it’s “a pretty amazing example of metal (sort of) as the most appropriate vehicle for political protest.”

Here’s a sample of the song’s lyrics:

Stand on the frontline like a dumbass, in a country that puts out like a hooker.
The field’s full of fuckers, dumbasses are everywhere.
The field’s full of fuckers, dumbasses are everywhere.
Fuck forgiveness, tolerance be damned, to hell with manners, the low-life’s invincible.

And here’s the video… it was shot by Christopher Doyle, who’s a genius:

“Dumbass” will appear on the EP The Divine Comedy, which Ai wrote with Chinese musician and artist Zuoxiao Zuzhou. It’s scheduled for release on June 22, the two-year anniversary of Weiwei’s release from jail. In the meantime, Netflix subscribers can learn more about Ai by streaming the documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

[via The New York Times]

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