Art, Music

Ai Weiwei – heavy metal music video

“The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has always had something of the rock star about him. Now his hotly anticipated musical debut has finally emerged blinking into the glare of international attention: the self-proclaimed heavy metal single Dumbass.” Guardian

The 55-year-old artist has said his first foray into music was a way of helping him deal with the impact of his 81-day detention in 2011. One of dozens seized in a crackdown on campaigners, lawyers and dissidents, Ai’s video shows an inch-accurate recreation of the cell where he was held – down to its wallpaper. He had nothing to do while he was there but memorise every detail, he said.

The track is not exactly Metallica, you might place it closer to avant-garde rock and Ai has acknowledged that after he said it would be heavy metal he had to run back to check what heavy metal was like. Then he thought, ‘oh my god, it’s quite different’.  “So it’s Chinese heavy metal, or maybe Caochangdi [where his studio is based] heavy metal.”


The video for the single – available for download at – was a collaboration with acclaimed cinematographer Christopher Doyle. Diving in and out of the cell’s reality and the soldier’s fantasies, it begins with Ai in a black hood bearing the word ‘suspect’ and ends with him shaven and slathered in red lipstick.

You can also watch the video here