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Apr. 15, 2011

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What’s happening with Ai Weiwei, who has been detained incommunicado by the Chinese authorities since Apr. 3, 2011? The situation does not seem to be good, with a Hong Kong newspaper controlled by the Chinese Communist Party claiming that Ai has begun to “confess” to crimes that are suspected to include “bigamy and spreading pornography online.”

The artist’s family says the charges are absurd, and may not in fact reflect the actual course of the “investigation.”Several of Ai Weiwei’s colleagues and assistants have also been arrested, and remain missing.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned Ai Weiwei’s “arbitrary arrest and detention” as “contrary to the rule of law” in a press conference announcing her department’s 2010 Human Rights Report.

An online petition launched by the Guggenheim Museum to protest Ai Weiwei’s arrest now has more than 82,000 signatures.

A Facebook protest is calling for demonstrations this Sunday, Apr. 17, 2011, at 1-2 pm. Dubbed “1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei,” the event involves supporters bringing a chair and sitting peacefully in front of Chinese embassies and consulates, a kind of recreation of Ai Weiwei’s “Fairytale” installation at Documenta in 2007.

In New York, the Chinese consulate is located at 520 12th Avenue, which is over on the West Side Highway at 42nd Street. The address in Chicago is 100 West Erie Street, and in Los Angeles it is 443 Shatto Place. 

It’s time for New York’s own performance art festival, Performa 11, Nov. 1-20, 2011, and this time around founder RoseLee Goldberg has lined up some pretty impressive sounding new commissions.

* Shirin Neshat, Overruled (working title), a courtroom drama featuring the celebrated Iranian musician Mohsen Namjoo and the Palestinian poet Suheir Hammad.

* Elmgreen & Dragset, Happy Days in the Art World, an “absurdist,” “ironic” and “celebrity-intrigued” theatrical performance based on both Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days (1961) and Sarah Thornton’s Seven Days in the Art World (2008).

* Ragnar Kjartansson, Bliss, a six-hour-long performance of Mozart’s delirious final aria in The Marriage of Figaro -- the final two minutes, continuously replayed, to “approach a euphoric state” -- performed with a full orchestra, five opera singers and period costumes.

* Iona Rozeal Brown, battle of yestermorrow, a depiction of an epic battle between a princess and the guardians of her family’s gravesite, with a score by brown and performances by vogueing legend Benny Ninja with Javier Ninja.

* Guy Maddin, Tales from the Gimli Hospital: Reframed, a live reimagining of the Canadian filmmaker’s 1988 feature film depicting the jealousy and madness of two men sharing a hospital room in a remote Canadian village.

Funding is provided by Toby Devan Lewis, Lambent Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation, among many others.

The minimalist painter Jo Baer was a dedicated grower of orchids.

A card-carrying member of an orchid society, she devoted her Greenwich Village loft to an almost scientific cultivation of the flowers -- but it was always a side activity, an interest that was not related to her work as a painter.

In the spirit of the great Baer’s passion -- paying homage, more generally, to an artist’s right to be committed to something outside of his or her artistic practice -- Anthony Huberman is removing “art” from the picture and turning downtown Manhattan’s The Artist’s Institute, at 163 Eldridge Street, into a one-day orchid shop, Sunday, Apr. 17, from 12-6 pm. It is headed by Helen and Charles Hersh from Mount Prospect Orchids.

Huberman’s recommendations for keeping the fragile beauties alive? Super-High-Output fluorescent lights and a humidity level of sixty-five percent.

Come one, come all: Mother’s Day is just around the bend.

Our great museums, the things they do to try to stay relevant. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam invited German Neo-Expressionist Anselm Kiefer to make a work inspired by Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, and the result -- oddly titled La berceuse (for Van Gogh) -- goes on view in the Rijksmuseum’s Night Watch Gallery, May 7-July 4, 2011.

Photographs by Anton Corbijn of Kiefer in his studio in France in 2008 accompany the Night Watch show -- which has its own Facebook page, with illustrations of the Kiefer work.

U.K.-based artists! The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2011-- £6,000 first prize -- has issued a call for entries, deadline June 20, 2011. Jurors this year are Whitechapel Gallery director Iwona Blazwick, White Cube director of exhibitions Tim Marlow, and artist Rachel Whiteread. A selection of approximately 60 drawings from the competition go on view at Jerwood Space in London, opening Sept. 14, 2011, and then tours in the UK. But be forewarned: The entry fee is £18 per drawing, and the works must be dropped off at one of the competition’s “collection centres.”

For academic utopian socialists, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s 2009 book Commonwealth, which suggests that “love” can somehow cure the increasingly privatized resources of our common world, has become something of a touchstone. Now, the Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University is presenting a show inspired by the book, titled “Common Love, Aesthetics of Becoming,” Apr. 11-June 11, 2011, in which work by 15 artists reveal “the transformative power of love.”

Artists in the show are Dave Arnold, Ronnie Bass, Guy Ben-Ner, Sean Dack, N. Dash, Marc Handelman, Tim Hyde, Will Kwan, Mads Lynnerup, Yasue Maetake, Gabriel Martinez, Gedi Sibony, Mika Tajima, Christian de Vietri, and Rona Yefman. It is jointly organized by Alexander Benenson, Kristen Chappa, Donald Johnson-Montenegro, and Tomoko Kanamitsu.

The show is accompanied by a catalogue, as well as an opening reception on Apr. 26, 2011, with a performance by Ronnie Bass and Gandalf Gavan.

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