SO SORRY is a work about an individual’s direct confrontation with a police state and his attempt to hold the system to account. In 2009, Ai Weiwei traveled to Chengdu, Sichuan province, to testify in court on behalf of Tan Zuoren, an activist involved with investigating the questionable circumstances surrounding the collapse of school buildings during the Sichuan earthquake. Tan stood accused of “subversion of state power.” On the eve of the trial, police broke into Ai’s hotel room and he was beat on the head during the altercation. One month later, Ai traveled to Munich to install an exhibition at the Haus der Kunst. Ai was rushed to emergency care where he underwent surgery for a brain haemorrhage resulting from the earlier beating.
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They have to have an enemy.
- Ai Weiwei, Chinese artist (b. 1957)
Ai Weiwei and Zuoxiao Zuzhou, “Laoma Tihua” from The Divine Comedy, 2013
So Sorry, 2009
As a sequel to Ai Weiwei’s film Lao Ma Ti Hua, the film So Sorry (named after the artist’s 2009 exhibition in Munich, Germany) shows the beginnings of the tension between Ai Weiwei and the Chinese Government. In Lao Ma Ti Hua, Ai Weiwei travels to Chengdu, China to attend the trial of the civil rights advocate Tan Zuoren, as a witness. In So Sorry, you see the investigation led by Ai Weiwei studio to identify the students who died during the Sichuan earthquake as a result of corruption and poor building constructions leading to the confrontation between Ai Weiwei and the Chengdu police. After being beaten by the police, Ai Weiwei traveled to Munich, Germany to prepare his exhibition at the museum, Haus der Kunst. The result of his beating led to intense headaches caused by a brain hemorrhage and was treated by emergency surgery. These events mark the beginning of Ai Weiwei’s struggle and surveillance at the hands of the state police.