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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read, 23 Aug 2013
By 
traveller (stirling, scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei (Paperback)
I didn't know a great deal about Ai Weiwei other than he was involved in the 'Bird's Nest' stadium in Beijing so this fairly short but well written book provides more autobiographical details. It provides an insight into his life and work, and the circumstances and consequences of his arrest, and although it is not perhaps as 'in depth' an investigation - only 200 odd pages - it nevertheless helps understand the challenge of being an artist with independent ideas in China.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating., 8 July 2013
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A fascinating account of lives of artists in China to-day and in the last hundred years. Makes one realise how extraordinary lucky we are in the west and the problems that are still to be faced in the country.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ai Wei Wei, 12 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei (Paperback)
I valued this book not only for what it told me about Ai Wei Wei and modern Chinese history, but also for the vignettes of other Chinese dissidents. Fascinating and moving - it opened a door for me onto part of today's world I feel I should know more about. It combines history and reportage, and is informative and intelligent.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, 13 May 2013
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This review is from: Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei (Paperback)
Great book depicting the history of China, Weiwei's family and his journey to the present day. Very insightful and at times entertaining.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read it., 6 May 2013
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This review is from: Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei (Paperback)
An electrifying book. Straddled between New Journalism and literary reportage it succeeds in bringing a variety of complex and alien worlds into thoughtful focus through clear, unpretentious and humane prose. The dual prisms of Ai Wei Wei's own 'long march' and Martin's forays into China since the 1990s shine a light on the country that has revolved from forced agrarian famine to dominant global economic power in the blink of a few decades.

But Hanging Man reaches beyond the contradictions of Ai Wei Wei, contemporary art and modern China. Clear signs (epigraph from Victor Klemperer, interview with Gabriel Orozco) spirit the reader away from armchair reflections on a distant autocracy into a more immediate consideration of the contradictions and absurdities that lie everywhere between the forces of individual expression and those of societal diktat.

Plus it's the most honest examination of the psychology that lies behind conceptual art I have read in years.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a work of written art, 29 April 2013
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This review is from: Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei (Paperback)
This book beautifully incorporates an overview of contemporary Chinese politics and all the changes that have taken place in the last century, with a look of one of the greatest modern day artists and social commentators. The hard work and courage in creating this piece of writing, from both the author and the protagonist, pours out from every page. I love words and the way that this is written is inspiring. Barnaby Martin manages to maintain a humble and modest manner, whilst clearly impressing us, and even educating us, with his knowledge and understanding of Chinese culture, history and politics. He does this without prejudice, despite the obvious difficulty in explaining the incredulous corruption and loss of basic human rights without evoking any emotion.
If you read one book this year, make it this one. I've bought it twice for two friends already!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended, 28 April 2013
This review is from: Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei (Paperback)
This is a terrific book.

Centred around Ai Weiwei's 81 days detention by the Chinese authorities, `Hanging Man' is much more than just a dramatic account of his ordeal. This episode is set against the recent developments in Chinese art and also a broader Chinese historical and political context.

As a result the book is a probing analysis of the Communist Party and its dominance within China, a fascinating analysis of modern Chinese art as subversion, and also a beacon of the power of language to break chains.

The persuasive figure of Ai Weiwei dominates of course, and the book suggests that this great man's substance (in all senses) makes him a vital figure in China's future, as well as its recent history. A founder of the `Stars' group - the original set of contemporary artists to appear after Mao's death and the demise of the Cultural Revolution - his art is dissident yet of broad appeal.

Ai Weiwei occupies a similar role to Solzhenitzyn in the USSR. Indeed his potency may be even stronger: in the most remarkable section of this book his guards and interrogators show personal warmth and goodwill to him - Ai Weiwei suggesting that they are as much victims of this Orwellian world as he. His status as questioning voice is universally accepted, more even than Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo who is still in detention.

The author Barnaby Martin personalizes the story by including his own role in the narrative - it's a device that works entirely. We penetrate this alien environment via him, and he brings interpretive clarity to this other-wordly totalitarianism. At one point Martin and a translator are in a taxi to Tongzhou to meet a Chinese poet called Mang Ke. Martin's description of the journey is worth the price of the book alone - thick white smog, traffic gridlock, faceless graceless architecture, freezing dispossessed people and desperate poverty - yet the humanity of the souls living in this nightmare is overpowering.

I would highly recommend this erudite yet accessible book both to those with knowledge of modern day China and those like me brought fresh to the subject from admiration for Ai Weiwei and the first fissures in the breakdown of CP rule that he may represent.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally Informative and Highly Recommended, 9 April 2013
This review is from: Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei (Paperback)
I found this book gripping and exceptionally informative. It's essential reading for anybody with an interest in modern China and issues surrounding freedom of expression, state control of culture and media and the politics of a modern totalitarian super power. I also felt I got a deep insight into Ai Weiwei the man. He's such a well known figure and cause-celebre yet there are very few articles I've read that get so close to the man and give such depth of understanding. Most importantly I found Barnaby Martin's writing to be excellent- direct, honest and authentic. I was really gripped by his passion for the subject and highly recommend the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and humbling, 6 April 2013
By 
Susan Glazier (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei (Paperback)
This is a wonderful book by Barnaby Martin about the Chinese artist and dissident, Ai Weiwei. It looks at the social meaning and function of art and draws parallels between the degree of free expression of artistic ideas within a society, and the degree of freedom afforded to the individual - in particular, the freedom (or not) for people to think new thoughts. The book helpfully summarises the social/political history of China since the 19th century and describes the highly repressive, bloody regime under Mao, before examining the incredibly hard lives of Ai Weiwei and his father, and Weiwei's art and linked political activism. Primarily, it deals with Weiwei's recent traumatic, frightening and ultimately damaging 81 days incarceration (with no formal charge or legal procedures) in 2011 by the secret police. It highlights just how repressive the regime in China still remains (maybe less repressive than North Korea, but totalitarian and Orwellian nevertheless) and how it seems to be desperately flaying about in its attempts to cling onto old-style power in a changing, competitive and modern world of which it is now a part. The book also deals with one or two other Chinese dissidents - people who, like Ai Weiwei, have taken "the line of most resistance", and describes their push for freedom of expression, their bravery and integrity. I would highly recommend this enlightening and humbling book which is compulsively readable. Although I haven't seen the stage version, this book has also been dramatised and is currently showing at the Hampstead Theatre in London (April/ May 2013).
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5.0 out of 5 stars History of Art and Human rights, 28 Mar 2013
This review is from: Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei (Paperback)
This book is very important for anyone who plans to live on this planet over the next 50 years. It gives a potted history of China in 20 th and 21 st century and outlines the development of art and human rights in China over the same period. Amazing description of pollution in Beijing. Humbling accounts of the bravery of Chinese dissidents and of Ai Weieei in particular.
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Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei
Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei by Barnaby Martin (Paperback - 21 Mar 2013)
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