Ai Weiwei is Absent

Forever Bicycles is part of a 21 piece art exhibit by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, who managed to piss off his government effectively enough that they locked him up for two months. He was released in June, but is currently prohibited from leaving Beijing – which is unfortunate considering the exhibit (aptly called “Absent”) just opened in Taipei, Taiwan. I’ve never been to Taiwan, but apparently compared to China it’s like Fort Lauderdale but with more Karaoke. Needless to say, the artist will not be in attendance.

Aware of my obsession for bikes, my friend Ian McCausland sent me a link to this amazing installation and it made me think of an interesting question I was asked recently. The question was “What do you look forward to most when you get on your bike?”. The first word that came to my mind was “freedom”.

I am thankful to live in a country where I can publicly make fun of anyone I want, including the Prime Minister, the Queen, Jesus, Santa Claus and yes, even the UCI. I also have the freedom to go where I want, when I want. When I ride my bike, it offers not only that physical freedom, but also a mental escape from my troubles and anxieties unparalleled by any other means. It’s difficult to say if that’s what Ai Weiwei was dreaming about when he made this striking piece, but I’d like to think so.

It is less difficult, however, to interpret the meaning of this image of Tiananmen Square which is also part of the exhibit.

photos: SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images