Exhibit by Chinese artist focuses on his absence

Associated Press
FILE: Artist Ai Weiwei Freed On Bail
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LONDON, ENGLAND - FILE: Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei holds some seeds from his Unilever Installation 'Sunflower Seeds' at The Tate Modern on October 11, 2010 in London, England. Chinese state radio reported on June 22, 2011 that the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been freed on bail after confessing to tax evasion. Ai was detained on April 3, 2011 and is reported to be in poor health. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, currently confined to Beijing, is opening an art exhibit in Taiwan that focuses on the political significance of his inability to attend.

The exhibit titled "Ai Weiwei, Absent" debuts at Taipei's Fine Arts Museum on Saturday.

In a pamphlet for the show, Ai writes that his absence "is a part of my art, my portfolio and my cultural state."

Ai was detained in April during a sweeping Chinese crackdown on activists. His detention sparked an international outcry over the country's deteriorating human rights situation.

He was released in June but he is prohibited from leaving Beijing.

China's government says Ai was detained on tax evasion charges.

The Taiwanese exhibit of 21 works includes photographs and 12 outsize bronze heads representing the Chinese zodiac. A new piece created by Ai consists of 1,000 bicycles piled in layers, reflecting his perception of the rapid pace of Chinese social change.

Taipei Fine Arts Museum officials said Ai gave instructions about mounting the exhibition through daily email exchanges.

"He believes he can achieve interactions with Taiwanese audiences through his work without his physical presence," museum official Weng Chih-tsung said.

The holding of the exhibition in Taiwan has a political significance of its own. Unlike the Communist mainland, the island of 23 million people is a freewheeling democracy with few restrictions on expression.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. China continues to insist that the island is part of its territory.

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