Ai Weiwei Releases a “Heavy Metal” Track

If the Chinese authorities thought their 2011 detention of Ai Weiwei would muzzle the outspoken artist-dissident-activist, they would be very wrong. Probably not timed with the Met’s Punk show, the would-be punk has nonetheless recorded and, today, released a highly scathing and subversive—perhaps criminally so in the eyes of the Communist party—”heavy metal” track.


Called Dumbass, hilariously, the “single” is the first from his forthcoming album, The Divine Comedy, due out June 22. We use quotation marks liberally because nothing about the song or its video can be compared to a Western-style commercial venture. Which is to say, it’s rather excruciating stuff, but cut him some slack — he’s not Psy and this isn’t K-pop.

The music is composed by Ai Weiwei’s friend, the guitarist Zuoxiao Zuzhou, while the cinematographer and Wong Kar-wai collaborator Christopher Doyle filmed the video in Ai Weiwei’s studio. The idea was to recreate, to a high level of accuracy, the prison cell where he was held, down to the uncomfortable shower scenes. Later scenes are, reportedly, artistic interpretations; namely, an inflatable sex doll, lingerie-clad strippers and crabs in his toilet.

The song and video can also be found on Ai Weiwei’s website.

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