Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei is branching out and joining the ranks of the music world. The very influential artist announced last week that he would be debuting his first music album. The new album, Divina Commedia, will feature nine tracks including heavy metal, punk, and pop influences. There is no doubt that Ai Weiwei is currently one of the most influential artists who has inspired a global movement through his work. The question remains, will Ai Weiwei’s cross over to the music world help better broadcast his message?
In this day and age, it is not unusual for an artist to cross over mediums to reach a wider audience. While the efforts should be commended, often times, the artist’s original message gets lost in translation. Ai Weiwei has had much success both abroad and at home for his work, which sets out to challenge many social, political and cultural ideas.
As a political activist, Ai Weiwei has openly been highly critical of the Chinese government. Ai Weiwei gained widespread recognition and support from the West when he was wrongfully arrested and held in jail for two months. Since then, Ai Weiwei has enjoyed a celebrity status and instantaneously anything with his name receives wide spread attention.
While some might argue that Ai Weiwei’s branching out to the music world is his way of evolving and growing as an artist, I wonder why it is necessary. The activist has put out compelling sculptures and has given his audience new hope in contemporary artists (click here to check out some of his photography). Why not continue to produce more work that is visually pleasing?
Many artists who have attempted to cross over mediums usually lose the success or fame they work so hard to get. Audiences usually respond critically when they learn their favorite artist or entertainer is going to experiment with a new form of medium.
The impending release of Ai Weiwei’s music album may be the greatest or the worst thing to happen to his career. As a well recognized artist, the album seems forced and an excuse to build on his celebrity status. While I know I will be anxiously waiting to download the album off of iTunes, I almost feel like I might also be setting myself up for disappointment.
Ai Weiwei’s album is named after Dante’s poem. He has also written and sung all the tracks. The album revolves around his visual art theme of human rights issues. Hopefully, this audio transition will not be forgotten but instead helps inspire an even greater movement to address human rights issues.