New York, Brooklyn, 29 October, 2015.
Once again, Bruno and Arun meet in New York. As usual, there are conversations pending, and interminable disagreements. On Metropolitan Street, almost at the corner of Kent, in the Williamsburg district, they pause.
“This is a piece of shit,” says Bruno pointing at the graffito. “Noise, images. Just about any top model has more impact on the world than anything else.”
“I’m telling you, a guy like Ai Weiwei (艾未未) is like one of those flies that want to get out of the room and bang again and again against the window. It’s clear to them, they want to get to the other side, and bump, once again, they’re up against it. That’s the way it is. It’s a desire to play a role in the world. But there’s no way on earth anybody’s changing China.”
“Stop trying to change things,” replies Arun. “Art is art and the world is the world. I’m glad they’re separated by the glass. There’s no reason why the one should play a role in the other.”
“Oh, come off it! What do you want, do you think art is just about making the world a prettier place? Shouldn’t it be able to transcend things?
“Bruno, it’s not because anybody wants it to, it’s that art will always transcend things.”
“Come on Arun, you’re so infuriating. What I’m saying is that top models, footballers, or whoever, are continually sending messages, images, noise… These wretched people have stolen artists’ thunder. Ai Weiwei (艾未未) has no choice but to create a fuss, elevating himself to art, to be a work of art himself, a brand that produces more images, more news, than that top model…”
And Arun interrupts Bruno, because he knows this is a conversation with no end and because whatever Bruno says, for Arun art isn’t supposed to change anything necessarily, it’s just a way to pass the time on the other side of the window. Bruno puts his hands to his head and simply says that Ai Weiwei (艾未未) is also known as Ai Shen (艾神), which is to say the Divine Ai, or the God Ai, whichever you prefer.
The artist who painted the graffito has gone to the trouble of depicting Ai Weiwei (艾未未) as the Monkey King in Journey to the West. That’s why he has those features and facial hair and is wearing the magic head band the monk Xuanzang tricked him into putting on his head so that when the monkey misbehaved he would get terrible headaches. The red line could be from the tight headband, or could be the line that Ai Weiwei mustn’t cross in criticizing the Chinese authorities. The graffito is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn near to where Ai Weiwei (艾未未) lived while studying at the Parsons School of Design during the 1980s. More from Arun and Bruno in Watch it! , Operation Fun, Sex is Fun, and We Laugh Less.