The artist, dissident, and provocateur Ai Weiwei has been prohibited from leaving China since last April, when police held him in an isolation cell for 81 days. Passing the time was "impossible," he told me in an interview last year. "I really wished someone could beat me. Because at least that's human contact. Then you can see some anger. But to dismiss emotion, to be cut off from any reason, or anger, or fear, psychologically that's very threatening."
Since then Ai, who is a Foreign Policy Global Thinker this year, has stayed mostly in his compound in Northeast Beijing, while his fame and his art have traveled the world. For Ai, who has more than 180,000 followers on Twitter, it's all about communication, about being able to speak out.
"My work in the past few years...relates to how to find a way to communicate in a very special circumstance" said Ai in a video he made exclusively for last night's Global Thinkers gala at the Hirshhorn museum in Washington, which is also currently hosting the first ever North American retrospective of his work.
Watch the video below: