Ai Weiwei (2017) courtesy of Jindřich Nosek (NoJin) under CC BY-SA 4.0 license

“When human beings are scared and feel everything is exposed to the government, we will censor ourselves from free thinking. That’s dangerous for human development.” Ai Weiwei (b. 1957, China)

PEN American announced this weekend that artist Ai Weiwei (Ai Weiwei’s blog,Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006-2009) will receive the Artistic Expression Award at the organization’s 2018 LitFest Gala in Los Angeles. Ai is renowned for making bold aesthetic statements that expose fault lines, unmask hypocrisies, and unleash empathy on a global scale. This honor comes in the wake of the razing of Ai Weiwei’s Beijing studio, including the destruction of several artworks, purportedly to make way for gentrification.

Ai Weiwei – Forever, 2018, Artz Pedregal, Mexico City courtesy of Keizers under CC BY-SA 4.0

“Ai Weiwei’s inventive, iconic, and utterly original lens on contemporary life both within and outside China have bridged the worlds of art and activism, awakening millions to the plight of refugees, government corruption, and human suffering. His dramatic, insistent, and impossible-to-forget films, artworks, and installations have jolted the art world, inspired millions, and stoked fear in the minds of governments alert to the power of creativity to spark social change,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel.

“Ai Weiwei has, for decades, endured the personal price of harassment, intimidation, and constraints on his freedom in his determination to speak out and be a voice for those who cannot. Coming without warning, the demolition of his studio last weekend was a vivid reminder of the arbitrary and unpredictable exercise of power that Ai’s work has consistently exposed and contested. PEN America has been proud to stand with Ai Weiwei in his courageous posture of artistic defiance, and is honored to present him with our Artistic Expression Award this year.”

From architecture to installations, social media to documentaries, Ai Weiwei uses a wide range of mediums as expressions of new ways for his audiences to examine society and its values.

Recent exhibitions include: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors with the Public Art Fund in New York City; Ai Weiwei on Porcelain at the Sakip Sabanci Museum in Istanbul; Maybe, Maybe Not at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem; and Ai Weiwei. Libero at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. In the fall of 2018, Ai Weiwei will open three major exhibitions in Los Angeles.

Ai currently resides and works in Berlin. He is the current Einstein Visiting Professor at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) and the 2012 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation. Ai’s first feature-length documentary, Human Flow, premiered at the 74th Venice Film Festival in competition.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. 






Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”

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