The Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has created a video message about coronavirus (Covid-19), offering advice and support to those suffering or on lockdown. The video was posted as part of the Palazzo Strozzi's new digital project In Touch, which is offering additional online content for users while the Florence museum is closed due to the pandemic.
In the video, Ai ruminates on the idea of Covid-19 as a "very democratic virus", one that does not discriminate between borders, nationalities, class divisions or religions. "Life is a struggle and life is full of surprise," he adds.
Last week, Ai came under fire after posting a meme about Covid-19 on Instagram that many people found offensive. It said: “Coronavirus is like pasta. The Chinese invented it, but the Italians will spread it all over the world.” Fellow artist Francesco Vezzoli criticised Ai, telling the Huffington Post: "Italy has always welcomed him with open arms; he rewards all that affection by writing those things?"
The Palazzo Strozzi held a show of Ai's work in 2016 called Ai Weiwei: Libero, which the museum's website describes as "a greatly successful exhibition that launched a new course dedicated to contemporary art at Palazzo Strozzi".
Here is the full transcript from the video:
Hello. In this very difficult moment I wish you all well—as we all know coronavirus is a challenge of this special time. Many people are suffering. There’s no border, no nationality or different class or religion can really escape from this almost very democratic virus. As we know there is no clear solution for something happened very unpredictable and also mysterious—with so much uncertainty that deeply affects our life, and many many people already lost their life.
And the same will continue for a while. This makes us understand that life is fragile and we can never really take this peaceful life for granted and we have to fight, we have to struggle. That requires solidarity, requires understanding, scientific research but more it requires our perspective on life itself.
Life is a struggle and life is full of surprise and I think this moment we need to be fully aware of the situation and to have some kind of positive attitude: stay home and stay together.