BY: Jon Kaiman in Beijing for the guardian.co.uk,
Chinese dissident artist does version of rapper Psy’s clip pointedly titled Grass Mud Horse Style, a jibe aimed at regime
Chinese dissident activist and artist Ai Weiwei shows off his moves to the worldwide music phenomenon that is Gangnam style. The 55-year-old adds an element of his own when he appears handcuffed to a fellow dancer in one scene. Gangnam Style, by South Korean rapper Psy, has been viewed more than 530m times on YouTube since its release three months ago
Ai Weiwei, the dissident Chinese artist, has officially hopped on the Gangnam Style bandwagon. On Wednesday Ai tweeted a cover version of South Korean rapper Psy‘s enormously popular music video, featuring the hefty 55-year-old artist â€“ brow furrowed, grey-bearded, sunglasses on â€“ dancing frenetically with a cohort of associates in his Beijing courtyard studio.
In the four-minute video Ai, wearing a bright pink shirt and black suit, imitates Psy’s signature horse-riding dance and at one stage loses his sunglasses in the process. The footage is spliced with clips from Psy’s original video but none of it showing the rapper himself. About 55 seconds in Ai pulls a pair of handcuffs from his pocket and waves them above his head, a possible reference to the 81 days he spent in detention last spring.
Ai’s parody is titled Grass Mud Horse Style after an alpaca-like animal invented by China‘s web users as a protest against internet censorship â€“ its pronunciation in Chinese (Cao Ni Ma) sounds similar to a profane insult, forbidden on the country’s social networking sites. Ai’s 2011 work Grass Mud Horse Blocking the Centre shows a nude Ai holding a Grass Mud Horse plush toy over his genitals â€“ the title sounds like an obscenity hurled directly at China’s central party leadership.
PSY’s Gangnam Style has more than 530m views and counting on YouTube. On Tuesday the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, met with the rapper to commend him on his international appeal. “You are so cool; I hope that you can end the global warming,” Ban said, according to Reuters.
Ai continues to be a looming presence in the international art world. He’s the subject of a sprawling exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC called Ai Weiwei: According to What? Recently he has contributed commentaries to The Guardian and guest-edited an issue of the New Statesman.
Yet Ai’s troubles with the government are far from over. Since his release in June authorities have kept him under close watch. They refuse to return his passport, barring him from accepting a faculty position at Berlin’s University of the Arts. In late September Ai and his company Fake Cultural Development lost their final appeal against a $2.4m tax fine.
“Ai Weiwei’s art and his activism resonate far beyond the art world and encourage an expanded dialogue on crucial social, cultural, and political issues of the day,” Hirshhorn museum director Richard Koshalek said in an exhibit catalogue, according to CNN.
He’s a pretty good dancer to boot.