Ai Weiwei releases heavy metal music video

The Chinese dissident artist's single, "Dumbass," is a provocative response his 81-day detention

By Prachi Gupta

Published May 22, 2013 2:18PM (EDT)

Chinese dissident and world-renowned artist Ai Weiwei has released the music video for "Dumbass," his heavy metal tune from debut exploratory album, "Divine Comedy". The album is a cathartic response to his mysterious 81-day detention in 2011. Of the album, he told the Guardian: "Music is a kind of self-therapy and at the same time helps the public to see. Even conditions like these can still turn into a positive effort."

The New York Times explains the video and lyrics, whose translations are too vulgar for reprinting in the newspaper:

The title of the first song, sung by Mr. Ai, is a rather vulgar Chinese word. Most of the lyrics cannot be published in The New York Times. A loose translation of one of the tamer lines goes: “Stand on the front line like a” — the line then invokes the title word — “in a country that puts out like a hooker.”

In the initial scenes of the five-minute video, the music plays as guards pull a black hood off Mr. Ai’s head. He is also seen walking between two guards in a blue T-shirt and flip-flops — like everything else in the video, an exact re-creation, in this case of what he wore in detention. There are scenes of him in the cell slurping noodles, sleeping and sitting in a chair facing interrogators. Then the video abruptly shifts to the fantasy scenes playing out in the heads of the two guards: crabs crawling in the toilet bowl after Mr. Ai uses it, for example, and nubile women in black lingerie prancing next to the artist.

“Those soldiers secretly asked me about sex and about different things,” Mr. Ai said.

“They are like prisoners in there,” he added. “They never can leave the building. And they don’t know what’s going on.”

Watch the video, below:

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at

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Activism Ai Weiwei Art China Heavy Metal Music Video