Ai Weiwei is once again in the hot seat — this time, for some controversial photos. The Independent reports that Zhao Zhao, the cameraman and assistant to Ai, is being investigated for distributing pornography. Zhao Zhao was questioned by Beijing authorities on Thursday about an image entitled One Tiger, Eight Breasts. The photograph shows the corpulent artist naked and surrounded by four nude, smiling and giggling women in an empty room. There is no contact between the subjects.
Supporters of the infamous Chinese dissident artist claim that this is just the latest attempt by the Chinese government to silence him. Ai tweeted: "This is not pornography. If they see nudity as pornography, then China is still in the Qing dynasty," in reference to the imperial dyansty which collapsed in 1911.
The Independent adds that the timing of this so-called scandal is significant. It comes on the heels of Ai’s being foced to pay an £820,000 guarantee into a state bank account in order to contest a £1.5m tax bill levied against his design company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development. Ai disputed the allegations from the beginning, as Flash Art Online reported, and said he felt as if he had been forced to pay a "ransom" to the government. The money that Ai paid to the government came largely from supporters across China. Some threw cash into the courtyard of his Beijing home, the Independent adds.
When Ai spent 81 days in detention earlier this year, rumors circulated that he would be charged with pornography offenses. A well-known photographic work by the artist depicts him jumping naked into the air; in another, more directly critical work, his wife Lu Qing lifts her skirt in front of a portrait of Chairman Mao.
In response to the controversy, Ai’s supporters in China have begun to post nude photos of themselves online, the Guardian reports.