“Dumbass” is the new released single by Ai Weiwei. Although Ai himself stated that he has no gift for music, it actually sounds pretty good. No surprise that it isn’t Ai Weiwei being responsible for the music, but established rock-performer Zuoxiao Zuzhou, who in 2010 released a soundtrack to Ai Weiwei’s Works No.1. The main figure carrying this piece is, nevertheless, Ai Weiwei, with his voice as well as with his impressive appearance in the video clip. However, what should we think of an avant garde artist, acknowledged for his sculptures and installations all over the world, who is now, to cap it all, even dabbling in rock music?
Who is aware of a quite similar performance some thirteen years ago by German fluxus artist Joseph Beuys will certainly appreciate more Ai Weiwei’s song. Beuys singing his polit-song “Sonne statt Reagan”* was a tough nut to crack for all those who considered him to be a serious artist! Since Beuys himself claimed to be well read in Schiller and Novalis, it’s hard to explain how his lyrics became as illiterate as written by an eight years old child (and not an eight years old Rimbaud of course). In nowadays classrooms we would learn, that this piece of art is to understand the immersion of Beuys concept of “social sculpture”. Even the intenional suspension of artistic expression can be a form of avantgarde art unfortunatly. There are certainly some good interpretations of this phenomenon, but in the very moment, when you are listening to this song, you will forget about all the intellectual approaches, and will just burst into convulsive laughter.
Compared with this incomparable experience, I think there’re reasons enough to appreciate Ai Weiwei’s “Dumbass“. It’s a cool song, you can learn some Chinese swearwords too, in the form of crippeld internet ciphers however, so as not to overwork “sensitive vocabulary”, but it still can be a supplement for clumsy Chinese speaker.
The video for the song shows a clean-shaven Ai Weiwei made up with lipstick in the end, is fun as well. The song was thought to work up Ai’s experiences during his investigative custody in 2011. So, make your own investigations about it. But when listening to the music, maybe it will be the same as with Beuys: don’t think too much and just enjoy this weird Bud Spencer-imitation with his bullwhip!
*The songs title uses a rather awkward play on words, since Reagan, as Joseph Beuys pronounced it, sounds like the German word “Regen”, so that the literal translation of the title is: “Sun Instead Of Rain”