Panopticon

Beijing

Ai Weiwei sleeps quietly, in boxer shorts and with one knee up. Unfortunately, that’s basically all we’ve learned about the Beijing artist’s home life, since his four 24-hour cameras have been turned back off.

It’s only been two days, but Ai Weiwei announced today that the new live-feed “WeiWeiCam” had been shut down by Chinese authorities. Too much competition, perhaps, for the police, who already keep 15 of their own surveillance cameras on Ai Weiwei’s home. His house is the most watched area of Beijing, even without WeiWeiCam.

It's too bad. Ai's live feed was both a nice statement about transparency, and a protection that balanced the watchful eyes of followers and friends against the colder scrutiny of government security forces and censors.

Also important, Ai's short-lived project provided Internet art geeks everywhere with the opportunity to make fun of Damien Hirst, who also has a live studio feed:

 

"Obviously, there are many differences between Mr. Ai’s and Mr. Hirst’s live feeds, the first and most obvious being that Mr. Ai actually appears in his studio. We periodically check in on Mr. Hirst, only to find his assistants working intently on a piece. As of this writing, the studio camera is on pause and “will resume when the studio reopens.”" - Gallerist NY

"What do Damien Hirst and Ai Weiwei have in common? They both have live video feeds into their studios, but where Hirst’s is yet another exercise in cultivated narcissism, Ai’s newly-launched “WeiWei Cam” is a political commentary on surveillance in China and a wry joke at his own expense"- ArtInfo

"WeiweiCAM: Ai Weiwei launches live studio feed via @artinfodotcom http://bit.ly/HhMwTN. Rather watch him that #Hirst to be honest." -   Natasha Kaye Whiffin ‏ ‪@nwhiffin

"More interesting than Hirst. Ai Weiwei installs studio webcams for supporters, security services" - Jake ‏ ‪@DrJJE

 

Text: Caitlin Hu