Chinese sculptor, installation artist and political dissident Ai Weiwei has released the first song off his planned heavy metal album. Like the rest of the album, “Dumbass” takes inspiration from and has roots in Ai’s secret government detainment for 81 days in 2011. The accompanying video takes a direct interpretation, depicting Ai in prison, enduring torture, having his head and beard shaved by his son and wearing lipstick and a dress. Meanwhile, the disorienting track sways and swings with growling guitars and Ai’s uncompromising vocals in Chinese.
“There was one thing I thought was interesting. When I was detained, there was a paramilitary officer standing there very seriously watching me, and he asked me quietly if I could sing a song,” Ai told Reuters on discovering music while detained. “At the time I felt extremely frustrated, because I felt terrible, and I realized that in a situation like that, these guards felt just like me, they wanted to hear songs.”
“It doesn’t sound very good, because I don’t have any real skill. . . . And I found that in making music, I have a lot of difficulties,” Ai said. “But I am trying very hard, and I will keep doing it, and I have hope to become someone who sings comparatively well.”
Although Ai was previously detained for criticizing the government, he said he doesn’t fear retaliation for the album, though he doubts it will be sold in China. “My songs will certainly be blocked. Not just my songs, but my photograph and my name are all blocked. But there’s no problem,” he said.
Ai plans to release the full album, Divina Commedia, next month. He’s also started work on his next album, which he says will be a collection of love songs.