A 6-ft tall sign spelling the words “Bye Bye Ai Weiwei” along a canal in Venice as the city’s art biennale takes place has been puzzling passerbys and art critics alike.
Jon Wiener, long time contributor to The China Beat sums up the situation:
“This looks insulting,” the Guardian reviewer wrote, “like telling the artist to fuck off.” To some it seemed like bidding him farewell, accepting his imprisonment. Others thought “bye bye” was a mistranslation of “ciao,” which in this context should have been rendered as “Hello Ai Weiwei.” Still others thought it would have been better to say “Remember Ai Weiwei”—or simply “Free Ai Weiwei!”
But the artist, Giuseppe Tampone , insisted that “Bye Bye” was not mistranslation, that he had been misunderstood. At the website www.byebyeaiweiwei.com, his explanation was presented in hard-to-understand English: “Bye Bye Ai Weiwei for all those that will not shout by any means ‘I don’t accept the bye bye.’”
The rest of his statement needs translation into comprehensible English: Stampione argued that “Hello Ai WeiWei” was “too easy,” because it seemed to offer hope, while hope in his view implied a passive stance. What was required, he argued, was “to realize the terrible situation in which Ai WeiWei is living today,” and then to take action to free him—political action, pressuring government leaders to take a stand and make demands of the Chinese authorities.
One more meaning he said he wanted to convey: “Bye Bye Ai Weiwei for all those who think that it could never happen to them.” Fair enough. Nevertheless, “Bye Bye Ai Weiwei” must be judged a failure.