Ai Weiwei releases new protest album, ‘Divine Comedy’

Artist Ai Weiwei speaking to journalists at his Beijing studio in May.
(Alexander F. Yuan / Associated Press)

The visual artist-cum-media juggernaut known as Ai Weiwei hurtles forward with the release of his new album, “The Divine Comedy.” The six-track album, released Saturday, is Ai’s first major attempt at pop music and features the heavy-metal single “Dumbass,” which was first released last month.

“The Divine Comedy” can be heard online at his official website. The site also features English translations of the Mandarin-language lyrics. (Note: Some of the songs feature explicit language.)

Some tracks directly reference Ai’s political activism. “Laoma Tihua” — or “Disturbing the Peace” — references the 2009 incident in which Chinese authorities accosted Ai in a hotel room in Sichuan and assaulted him. The artist, who was in the city to give testimony regarding the 2008 earthquake, sustained brain damage from the beating and later required surgery.

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“Chaoyang Park” refers to the Beijing site where a violent brawl among rival Chinese bloggers took place in 2012. Ai was among those who participated in the incident, which has been nicknamed the “Rumble in the Jungle.”


Ai performs on all the tracks in the album and co-wrote the songs with Zuoxiao Zuzhou.

The artist exercised his vocal cords last week by performing with Laurie Anderson via online video at the Luminato Festival in Toronto. Ai is still not allowed to leave China, having been released on bail following 81 days in secret detention in 2011.

The touring museum retrospective of Ai’s art — titled “According to What?” — is currently running at the Indianapolis Museum of Art through July 21. It will then travel to the AGO Art Gallery of Ontario in Canada.


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