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Posted at 11:19 AM ET, 11/21/2011

Ai Weiwei fans post nude photos in response to pornography investigation

First, they sent him their money. Now they’re sending him their naked pictures. Fans of Ai Weiwei aren’t posting nude photos of themselves to titillate, though: It’s a protest over the government’s pornography inquiry against the dissident artist.
Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei opens his jacket to reveal a shirt bearing his portrait as he walks into the Beijing Local Taxation Bureau. (Andy Wong - AP)

After the government decided to investigate Weiwei for participating in a nude but not overly sexual photo shoot, fans flooded the Web with images of their own bodies. The investigation is the latest of Weiwei’s troubles: He has been the target of a prolonged tax battle after being detained for nearly three months by the government.

Weiwei’s photo, “One Tiger Eight Breasts,” is one of the photos that spurred the investigation. In it, a naked Weiwei is surrounded by four smiling, also-naked women, two of whom cover themselves modestly. It would be better described as a nude group portrait than as pornography — the image, shown in the Guardian, is hardly titillating (though it might not be safe for workplaces).

“If they see nudity as pornography, then China is still in the Qing dynasty,” Weiwei told Associated Press. His attorneys say the investigations are politically motivated. According to the Guardian, “A pornography or obscenity charge based on the pictures revealed so far is likely to incur ridicule and anger among Ai’s supporters. Many Chinese contemporary artists have appeared naked in their work.”

But Weiwei’s supporters, who previously helped him raise $1.4 million to fight his tax bill, are fighting back by tweeting and posting their own nude photos:

While a couple of internet users tweeted full-frontal shots, others have come up with more decorous – and ingenious – variations on the theme. Some posted pictures of themselves as babies; one photo shows a row of nine unclothed women and one man – with images of Ai's head superimposed over their genitals and nipples.

The interpretation of people’s naked bodies in itself is an individual freedom and a form of creative freedom,” blogger Wen Yunchao told Reuters. “Also, we don't see any pornographic elements in [Ai’s] photographs. So we are using this extreme method to express our protest.”

Weiwei’s fans aren’t the only one protesting social injustices with naked pictures, though: Egyptian blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, who took nude photos of herself in response to censorship of expression and sexuality, has received an outpouring of both support and outrage. Israeli women took naked photos of themselves in a show of solidarity.

Related:

Ai Weiwei’s Tax battle: Performance art or “ransom”?

Ai Weiwei’s fans raise funds to pay his massive tax bill

‘Dead’ Ai Weiwei sculpture scares German town

By  |  11:19 AM ET, 11/21/2011

 
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