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Dumbass: Ai Weiwei releases heavy metal music video, by Deleted on May 22, 2013 13:04:51 GMT 1,
The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has always had something of the rock star about him. Now his hotly anticipated musical debut has finally emerged blinking into the glare of international attention: the self-proclaimed heavy metal single Dumbass.
The 55-year-old said his first foray into music was "a kind of self-therapy" helping him to deal with the impact of his 81-day detention in 2011. He was one of dozens seized in a crackdown on campaigners, lawyers and dissidents.
He told the Guardian his country was one of "crazy menace and inhuman conditions" and the video shows an "inch-accurate" recreation of the cell where he was held – down to its wallpaper. He had nothing to do while he was there but memorise every detail, he said.
Going back into that situation "was very hard, but I had to do it because that helped me to overcome the trauma", Ai added.
"Music is a kind of self-therapy and at the same time helps the public to see. Even conditions like these can still turn into a positive effort."
The song also offers a scathing verdict on intellectuals trying to work with the system. "So many people think they can improve the situation or collaborate. I think that's very wishful thinking in this political structure. It makes people not very conscious of what's happening," he said.
In the song he growls: "When you're ready to strike, he mumbles about non-violence … stand on the frontline like a dumbass, in a country that puts out like a hooker. The fields are full of fuckers, dumbasses are everywhere.
"Fuck forgiveness, tolerance be damned, to hell with manners, the low-life's invincible."
"Dumbass" is a mild translation of the stronger Chinese expletive –though still too racy, it emerged, for the New York Times to print.
The track is not exactly Metallica: others might peg it closer to avant-garde rock. "After I said it would be heavy metal I ran back to check what heavy metal would be like. Then I thought, oh my god, it's quite different," Ai acknowledged.
"So it's Chinese heavy metal, or maybe Caochangdi [where his studio is based] heavy metal."
The video for the single – available for download at www.aiweiwei.com –was a collaboration with acclaimed cinematographer Christopher Doyle. Diving in and out of the cell's reality and the soldier's fantasies, it begins with Ai in a black hood bearing the word "suspect" and ends with him shaven and slathered in red lipstick.
Ai said he and his friends and family still suffered nightmares about his experience.
Police had told him, he said, that "you ask for your freedom but we will make you pay with your life".
He added: "It leaves a permanent mark, like a scar."
The single is taken from his forthcoming album, the more eruditely titled Divine Comedy, possibly inspired by the words Dante said appeared across the gates of Hell: Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. It will be launched on 22 June, the second anniversary of his emergence from detention.
Ai wrote the lyrics for the album and sings, while his friend Zuoxiao Zuzhou provided the music.
The artist has said he was also inspired by Elton John, who dedicated a concert in Beijing to Ai in 2012.
Ai has already begun work on his second album, which he has said will have a more romantic tinge. "They are love songs – to people who need love or need to be believed and to children, to Tibet, to this land. Many people need love," he said.