Ai Weiwei, like Damien Hirst, has posted live video of the inside of his studio. It is called WeiWeiCam. Currently, Mr. Ai is sleeping. If this video can be trusted, he is a pretty peaceful sleeper and he does not move around much.
Obviously, there are many differences between Mr. Ai’s and Mr. Hirst’s live feeds, the first and most obvious being that Mr. Ai actually appears in his studio. We periodically check in on Mr. Hirst (this fearless act of reporting from the Internet’s trenches is all in a hard day’s work, people!), only to find his assistants working intently on a piece. As of this writing, the studio camera is on pause and “will resume when the studio reopens.”
But there is also the implication that because of Mr. Ai’s very public travails with the Chinese government, and the resulting non-self-imposed surveillance the artist faces in real life, this studio camera is his latest commentary and, in fact, “art.” Could we say this about Mr. Hirst? His last public commentary basically took on the form of a massive PR machine promoting, well, Mr. Hirst, specifically his worldwide spot painting extravaganza. The camera in Mr. Hirst’s studio is, at best, informative (and a little dull).
Critics, however, have read Mr. Ai’s recent legal battles and imprisonment as performative, even though they are happening for real. Still, by taking ownership of the idea of being watched, he does gain some kind of artistic control over the situation.
Ultimately, that doesn’t provide him with much of a solution: Chinese authorities recently denied his appeal of an allegedly fraudulent $2.4 million tax bill.