An Inauguration Highlight Made in China

Newseum

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Inaugurations bring out the hokey in the nation’s capital. Every day, the planners of the inauguration announce an official inauguration this or that: The official menu of the inauguration lunch, the official inauguration gifts of the American public to the president and vice president, and so on. There is much self-congratulatory celebration about US democracy, some justified, some perhaps a tad over-the-top. But one highlight of this days-long PrezFest is happening at night, just a few blocks from the Capitol steps where President Barack Obama will be sworn in for his second term on Monday. At the Newseum, the work of Ai Weiwei, the politically-minded Chinese artist (and dissident), is being projected onto the exterior of the museum, atop its permanent ten-story-high rendition of the First Amendment.

The art of Ai Weiwei, who helped design the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, is currently being featured in a marvelous and provocative retrospective at the Hirshhorn museum on the National Mall. With his art—sculpture, photography, and other media—Ai Weiwei has operated as a sharp social and political critic, often examining the abuse of power in China and elsewhere. As a payback, he has been detained, roughed up, and placed under surveillance by Chinese authorities—which has motivated him to produce more compelling art. (The Chinese government prohibited him from attending the opening of this exhibit in Washington.) “I’m just an undercover artist in the disguise of a dissident,” he says.

Well, this undercover artist, who maintains that artists ought to challenge “the will of the times,” has a featured spot in the run-up to this celebration of the American political system.

 
 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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