There was no shortage of love for AWW at the Sundance premiere of this film; everyone in line with me had a particular story about how they met him, his work, his activism. His presence was strongly felt, and that is the point and charm of AWW – his absence is a large part of his art and self-presentation. For many of us, AWW is largely absent anyway- we’ve never met him. But since his prolonged and mysterious detention in China and subsequent probation, he is truly absent in the worlds of art and social media. He is and never will be truly gone, however, because of this film, our support, the ubiquitous presence of his art, and the fact that we can’t stop talking about him.
Never Sorry‘s greatest strength is the director’s focus on the ways in which AWW asserts himself through his art and activism – art and life, self and community, are all one. Because of this entrenchment, his art – and something more abstract and profound, a commitment, a defiance, perhaps – continues without him. His voice, echoed by thousands of ours, will never be silenced. An alternate title to this film should be Never Silent.
Ai WeiWei’s Sunflower Seeds is currently on exhibition at the Mary Boone Gallery in New York.
It is also featured in the Berlinale 62 Special Series, through 19 February.