A Landscape of Dignity

I'm delighted to share "A Landscape of Dignity: A Conversation with Ai Weiwei and Ian Boyden," edited by Stephanie Elliott Prieto in Rain Taxi Review of Books. I'll share the first exchange. Read the rest at Rain Taxi.

Stephanie Prieto: Do you think poetry and art play a role in understanding and upholding human dignity? If so, how do you view this role?

Ai Weiwei: Art and poetry are the most exceptional manifestations of all human emotional and cognitive activities. They cannot be replaced by rationality, science, or anything else. In today’s society, the spirit of art and poetry exists, but the modality of language has shifted. Every day, I witness ordinary people on Twitter expressing poetry unconsciously. Art is actually ubiquitous within reality, it is simply that this art is not necessarily made by artists from the academy. Regardless of whether it is poetry or art, both are important standards by which we can measure the spiritual quality of humanity.

Ian Boyden: I love this observation that the modality of language has shifted. This shift has allowed us to see and express ourselves in novel ways. When I first started this project, I was writing these poems on Twitter as a conversation with . . . well, mostly with myself. I felt like a firefly pulsing light in the darkness. Every day a few names would pulse from Weiwei’s account, and I would then pulse a poem in return. It was the conditions of Twitter that gave these poems the shape and rhythm they have. The 140-character limit required concision. But slowly, as the project grew and the novelty of the modality wore off, I began to understand that what I was wrestling with was something very ancient and central to what it means to be human: dignity. How do we describe dignity, how do we nurture it, protect it? In the names of these children, I saw dignity take the form of a vast landscape that is a profound expression of our shared world.

Constellations of Humanity

Each luminous dot on this map represents one reader of this poem. As the number of readers increases, the stars begin to cluster and form an increasingly detailed constellation. My intent is to show how brightly a poem glows across our world. I welcome your light.

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