Archive for September, 2014

Tonight I met a man who knew the man who taught the 14th Dalai Lamar and who wrote this book, not a bad night after a strange day. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tibetan_Book_of_Living_and_Dying

Sustain-Able 余 : ♥ www.CeciliaYu.com

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (Part 1 of 2)

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying [Audio Download]
by Sogyal Rinpoche (Author, Narrator), John Cleese (Narrator), Peri Eagleton (Narrator), Susan Skipper (Narrator)

Tibet

As population demographics change, we are all going to be facing a lot of death and dying….what surprises me is that so many are wasting their time…trying to “relive” their youths by sending their prejudices/bigotry out to the next generation and trying to abuse the planet “one more for the road” instead of preparing for certain experience in a dignified way like most ancient cultures that focus on Wisdom would……try this…instead of pretending you are not growing old…The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (Audio Book)

Part 1: 3 hrs.

Part 2: 3 hrs.

Tibet

I’ve seen people doing incredible things from the moment they are born to the moment they take their last breathe..and even beyond….what…

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Two Thousand Nine Hundred clicks, I’m extremely grateful to everyone that has taken time to view my blog.

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Two Thousand Nine Hundred clicks

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The following article appeared in BrainPickings.com by Maria Popova in 21st August 2014.

Why we hurt each other – Tolstoy’s letters to Gandhi on Love, Violence, and the Truth of the Human Spirit

“Love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills.”

 

In 1908, Indian revolutionary Taraknath Das wrote to Leo Tolstoy, by then one of the most famous public figures in the world, asking for the author’s support in India’s independence from British colonial rule. On December 14, Tolstoy, who had spent the last twenty yearsseeking the answers to life’s greatest moral questions, was moved to reply in a long letter, which Das published in the Indian newspaperFree Hindustan. Passed from hand to hand, the missive finally made its way to the young Mahatma Gandhi, whose career as a peace leader was just beginning in South Africa. He wrote to Tolstoy asking for permission to republish it in his own South African newspaper, Indian Opinion. Tolstoy’s letter was later published in English under the title A Letter to a Hindu (free downloadpublic library).

The exchange sparked an ongoing correspondence between the two that lasted until Tolstoy’s death — a meeting of two great minds and spirits, eventually collected in Letters from One: Correspondence (and more) of Leo Tolstoy and Mohandas Gandhi and rivaled only by Einstein’s correspondence with Freud on violence and human nature.

Tolstoy’s letters issue a clarion call for nonviolent resistance — he admonishes against false ideologies, both religious and pseudo-scientific, that promote violence, an act he sees as unnatural for the human spirit, and advocates for a return to our most natural, basic state, which is the law of love. Evil, Tolstoy argues with passionate conviction, is restrained not with violence but with love — something Maya Angelou would come to echo beautifully decades later.

Gandhi’s introduction to the original edition, in which he calls Tolstoy “one of the clearest thinkers in the western world, one of the greatest writers,” offers a pithy caveat to the text, as perfect today as it was a century ago:

One need not accept all that Tolstoy says … to realize the central truth of his indictment.

[…]

There is no doubt that there is nothing new in what Tolstoy preaches. But his presentation of the old truth is refreshingly forceful. His logic is unassailable. And above all he endeavors to practice what he preaches. He preaches to convince. He is sincere and in earnest. He commands attention.

Tolstoy opens each “chapter” of his missive — for the letter’s length, indeed, puts in glaring perspective the nuanceless and hasty op-eds of our time, contrasting the truly reflective with the merely reactive — by quoting a passage from Krishna as a backdrop for his political, moral, and humanistic arguments. His words bear extraordinary prescience today, as we face a swelling tide of political unrest, ethnic violence, and global conflict. He writes:

The reason for the astonishing fact that a majority of working people submit to a handful of idlers who control their labour and their very lives is always and everywhere the same — whether the oppressors and oppressed are of one race or whether … the oppressors are of a different nation.

[…]

The reason lies in the lack of a reasonable religious teaching which by explaining the meaning of life would supply a supreme law for the guidance of conduct and would replace the more than dubious precepts of pseudo-religion and pseudo-science with the immoral conclusions deduced from them and commonly called “civilization.”

It’s worth pausing here to note that Tolstoy’s notion of “religious teaching” is perhaps best regarded as “spiritual direction,” for he dedicated a great portion of his life trying to discern precisely such spiritual direction for himself by selectively culling wisdom from all the major religious and philosophical traditions. Indeed, he speaks to that aspect directly further along in the letter:

In every individual a spiritual element is manifested that gives life to all that exists, and that this spiritual element strives to unite with everything of a like nature to itself, and attains this aim through love… The mere fact that this thought has sprung up among different nations and at different times indicates that it is inherent in human nature and contains the truth. But this truth was made known to people who considered that a community could only be kept together if some of them restrained others, and so it appeared quite irreconcilable with the existing order of society.

Illustration by Maurice Sendak for Tolstoy’s ‘Nikolenka’s Childhood.’ Click image for more.

He considers how political ideologies hijacked this basic law of love at various times in human history and tried to replace it with a law of violent submission:

This truth was made known to people who considered that a community could only be kept together if some of them restrained others, and so it appeared quite irreconcilable with the existing order of society… The dissemination of the truth in a society based on coercion was always hindered in one and the same manner, namely, those in power, feeling that the recognition of this truth would undermine their position, consciously or sometimes unconsciously perverted it by explanations and additions quite foreign to it, and also opposed it by open violence. Thus the truth — that his life should be directed by the spiritual element which is its basis, which manifests itself as love, and which is so natural to man—this truth, in order to force a way to man’s consciousness, had to struggle not merely against the obscurity with which it was expressed and the intentional and unintentional distortions surrounding it, but also against deliberate violence, which by means of persecutions and punishments sought to compel men to accept religious laws authorized by the rulers and conflicting with the truth.

[…]

The recognition that love represents the highest morality was nowhere denied or contradicted, but this truth was so interwoven everywhere with all kinds of falsehoods which distorted it, that finally nothing of it remained but words. It was taught that this highest morality was only applicable to private life — for home use, as it were — but that in public life all forms of violence — such as imprisonment, executions, and wars — might be used for the protection of the majority against a minority of evildoers, though such means were diametrically opposed to any vestige of love. And though common sense indicated that if some men claim to decide who is to be subjected to violence of all kinds for the benefit of others, these men to whom violence is applied may, in turn, arrive at a similar conclusion with regard to those who have employed violence to them, and though the great religious teachers … foreseeing such a perversion of the law of love, have constantly drawn attention to the one invariable condition of love (namely, the enduring of injuries, insults, and violence of all kinds without resisting evil by evil) people continued — regardless of all that leads man forward — to try to unite the incompatibles: the virtue of love, and what is opposed to love, namely, the restraining of evil by violence. And such a teaching, despite its inner contradiction, was so firmly established that the very people who recognize love as a virtue accept as lawful at the same time an order of life based on violence and allowing men not merely to torture but even to kill one another.

Illustration by Maurice Sendak for Tolstoy’s ‘Nikolenka’s Childhood.’ Click image for more.

He distills this idea to one “old and simple truth”:

It is natural for men to help and to love one another, but not to torture and to kill one another.

In addition to the false interpretations of religion, Tolstoy takes equal issue with scientific reductionism — something that undoubtedly felt like a great threat at the dawn of the twentieth century, when science was just beginning break to down the material universe into its basic atomic units, a discovery that many feared might be reduced to the hollowing belief that a human being is nothing more than physical “stuff.” Both science and religion, Tolstoy argues, could result in dangerous dogma that blinds us to the basic law of love, if taken at face value and stripped of nuance — the danger of, as he puts it, “scientific superstition replacing the religious one”:

But by the term “scientific” is understood just what was formerly understood by the term “religious”: just as formerly everything called “religious” was held to be unquestionable simply because it was called religious, so now all that is called “scientific” is held to be unquestionable… The unfortunate majority of men bound to toil is so dazzled by the pomp with which these “scientific truths” are presented, that under this new influence it accepts these scientific stupidities for holy truth, just as it formerly accepted the pseudo-religious justifications.

(How easy it is even today for laypeople to be “dazzled by the pomp” of questionable science journalism that prioritizes clickbait sensationalism — something else about which Tolstoy held passionate, prescient opinions — over clarity and rigor.)

He returns to the central point, affirming Gandhi’s advocacy of nonviolent resistance:

Love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills, and in it you too have the only method of saving your people from enslavement… Love, and forcible resistance to evil-doers, involve such a mutual contradiction as to destroy utterly the whole sense and meaning of the conception of love.

Considering the British colonization of India, Tolstoy marvels at how “a commercial company enslaved a nation comprising two hundred millions” and argues that this was only made possible by people, both the oppressors and the oppressed, failing to contact “the eternal law of love inherent in humanity.” He writes:

As soon as men live entirely in accord with the law of love natural to their hearts and now revealed to them, which excludes all resistance by violence, and therefore hold aloof from all participation in violence — as soon as this happens, not only will hundreds be unable to enslave millions, but not even millions will be able to enslave a single individual.

Reflecting on the process of reawakening to that “eternal law,” Tolstoy offers a developmental metaphor:

What is now happening to the people of the East as of the West is like what happens to every individual when he passes from childhood to adolescence and from youth to manhood. He loses what had hitherto guided his life and lives without direction, not having found a new standard suitable to his age, and so he invents all sorts of occupations, cares, distractions, and stupefactions to divert his attention from the misery and senselessness of his life. Such a condition may last a long time.

When an individual passes from one period of life to another a time comes when he cannot go on in senseless activity and excitement as before, but has to understand that although he has outgrown what before used to direct him, this does not mean that he must live without any reasonable guidance, but rather that he must formulate for himself an understanding of life corresponding to his age, and having elucidated it must be guided by it. And in the same way a similar time must come in the growth and development of humanity. I believe that such a time has now arrived — not in the sense that it has come in the year 1908, but that the inherent contradiction of human life has now reached an extreme degree of tension: on the one side there is the consciousness of the beneficence of the law of love, and on the other the existing order of life which has for centuries occasioned an empty, anxious, restless, and troubled mode of life, conflicting as it does with the law of love and built on the use of violence. This contradiction must be faced, and the solution will evidently not be favorable to the outlived law of violence, but to the truth which has dwelt in the hearts of men from remote antiquity: the truth that the law of love is in accord with the nature of man.

But men can only recognize this truth to its full extent when they have completely freed themselves from all religious and scientific superstitions and from all the consequent misrepresentations and sophistical distortions by which its recognition has been hindered for centuries.

To save a sinking ship it is necessary to throw overboard the ballast, which though it may once have been needed would now cause the ship to sink.

Sensing that global tensions were brewing, Tolstoy added the prescient admonition that “in our time all these things must be cleared away in order that mankind may escape from self-inflicted calamities that have reached an extreme intensity.” World War I broke out less than five years later. One of humanity’s grimmest self-inflicted calamities offered evidence, as modern wars do, that we still have a long way to go before reaching that return to the basic nature of love Tolstoy envisioned — which is why Tolstoy’s closing words to Gandhi ring with amplified urgency today:

What are wanted for the Indian as for the Englishman, the Frenchman, the German, and the Russian, are not Constitutions and Revolutions, nor all sorts of Conferences and Congresses, nor the many ingenious devices for submarine navigation and aerial navigation, nor powerful explosives, nor all sorts of conveniences to add to the enjoyment of the rich, ruling classes; nor new schools and universities with innumerable faculties of science, nor an augmentation of papers and books, nor gramophones and cinematographs, nor those childish and for the most part corrupt stupidities termed art — but one thing only is needful: the knowledge of the simple and clear truth which finds place in every soul that is not stupefied by religious and scientific superstitions — the truth that for our life one law is valid — the law of love, which brings the highest happiness to every individual as well as to all mankind. Free your minds from those overgrown, mountainous imbecilities which hinder your recognition of it, and at once the truth will emerge from amid the pseudo-religious nonsense that has been smothering it: the indubitable, eternal truth inherent in man, which is one and the same in all the great religions of the world.

(Twelve years earlier, Tolstoy found far more than “childish and for the most part corrupt stupidities” in art in his sublime essay on the “emotional infectiousness” of art.)

Illustration by Maurice Sendak for ‘Open House for Butterflies’ by Ruth Krauss. Click image for more.

Writing to Gandhi again on September 7, 1910 — eight weeks before he took his final breath — Tolstoy revisited the subject with even more heartfelt conviction:

The longer I live — especially now when I clearly feel the approach of death — the more I feel moved to express what I feel more strongly than anything else, and what in my opinion is of immense importance, namely, what we call the renunciation of all opposition by force, which really simply means the doctrine of the law of love unperverted by sophistries. Love, or in other words the striving of men’s souls towards unity and the submissive behavior to one another that results therefrom, represents the highest and indeed the only law of life, as every man knows and feels in the depths of his heart (and as we see most clearly in children), and knows until he becomes involved in the lying net of worldly thoughts… Any employment of force is incompatible with love.

A Letter to a Hindu is well worth a read in its entirety, and it’s available as a free download. Complement it with Tolstoy on finding meaning in a meaningless world, his timeless Calendar of Wisdom, and a rare recording of the authorreading from it shortly before his death, then revisit another extraordinary exchange of Eastern and Western ideas in Einstein and Tagore’s 1930 conversation about Truth and Beauty.

 

 

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Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 00.30.57I’m chuffed to bits! You lovely people!
Please visit our appearance in the National newspaper of Wales http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/local-news/welsh-hollywood-superstar-michael-sheen-7824552

and please give support to our Facebook group: United Valleys Action Group

Today, 25th September, is the feast day of Saint Cadog Born 497,
Cadoc was the son of Gwynllyw, ruler of the Kingdom of Gwynllwg and Gwladys, daughter of King Brychan of Brycheiniog.

St Gwladys’ tomb is on Gelligaer common above Bargoed. She was kidnapped by Gwynllyw in a raid with his band of fearless warriors. Gwladys was daughter of King Brychan of Brycheiniog and the battle was fought on the high moorland of Nant Llesg .
The Battle was said to be observed by King Arthur Pendragon, Cei and Bedwyr his bodyguards from Carn Fochriw (“The Cairn on Pig Hill”)… So here we have Arthur, Cei and Bedwyr, at this time, on the mountain above our village.

Can you imagine for one moment that if this had happened in an area like Tintagel that this land would be under threat of PERMANENT DESTRUCTION BY OPENCAST by Miller-Argent???
No, it wouldn’t, it would be a multi million pound tourist industry such as they have in Cornwall!

the battle between Gwynllyw in a raid with his band of fearless warriors. against King Brychan of Brycheiniog.

the battle between Gwynllyw in a raid with his band of fearless warriors. against King Brychan of Brycheiniog.

 

Saint Cadog (Catwg, Cadoc)

Saint Cadog (Catwg, Cadoc)

“Today is the feast day of Saint Cadog (Cadoc) Born 497.

St. Cadoc is one of the most important early Welsh saints. He was a contemporary of Dewi Sant (St. David), St. Patrick of Ireland, St. Columba of lona, and tutor of St Illtyd. It is said that he rivaled St David as Wales’ patron saint.

Cadoc was the son of Gwynllyw, ruler of the Kingdom of Gwynllwg and Gwladys, daughter of King Brychan of Brycheiniog. After the birth of his son, Gwynllyw went on a wild celebratory raid with a new band of fearless warriors. Among other livestock, he stole the cow of an Irish monk, St. Tathyw of Caerwent. St Tathyw was not afraid of Gwynllyw and boldly went to confront him, demanding the return of the cow. Gwynllyw would not let Tathyw leave with his cow until he baptized his newborn son into the Christian faith. On a sudden impulse, or perhaps guided by divine inspiration, Gwynllyw decided Cadoc would go to live under the monk’s care and he was sent away to be educated at Tathyw’s monastery in Caerwent.

In adulthood Cadoc refused to take charge of his father’s army, “preferring to fight for Christ”, he undertook a pilgrimage to Rome and Jerusalem and was reportedly distressed that the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi was held during one of these absences.

Legend says that once whilst hiding in a wood from enemies, he surprised a wild boar, that charged him, but dissapeared before striking him. Cadoc took this as a sign, and the location became the site of the great church and monastry at Llancarfan, near Cowbridge. Legend also says he once saved his brother monks in a famine by tying a white thread to the foot of a mouse; he then followed the thread to an abandoned, well-stocked, underground granary.

It is probable that in his later years he returned to the area around Abergavenny, where he was killed by Saxons in 570 when celebrating Mass.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadoc

Gelligaer Common Archaeological heritage. Saint Dyffrig, Saint Gwladys and Saint Catwg http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/docs/cadw/publications/South%20Wales%20Blaenau%20Gwent_EN.pdf

 

a nice read Baarbaara x

baarbaarathesheep

On the 15th September 2014, Director and Producer for BBC Wales: Sian Roderick attended a United Valleys Action Group meeting meeting at The Blast Furnace in Pontlottyn.  Sian was interested in the group’s present (Anti -Opencast, Nant Llesg) and previous campaigns (Covanta – Anti-Incinerator – and Ffos- y Fran (Anti-Opencast), with a view to including the group in a documentary that she is making with Welsh Hollywood actor Michael Sheen.  The documentary is to commemorate 175 years since the introduction of The Chartists’ Movement in Wales.  Michael spoke openly of his disgust at Newport Council’s decision to destroy the monumental Chartist mural in 2013… You can read more about that here:  Michael Sheen pens open letter.

Michael and his crew turned up unexpectedly at our meeting on Monday the 22nd of September 2014.  They filmed us and Michael asked specific questions of the group:

One of his…

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Our future EU Energy and Climate Action Commissioner? Let’s hope not!

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Talk about the fox guarding the hen house! 

It’s not only Cañete’s fossil fuel investments we have reason to be up in arms about. According to Corporate Europe Observatory, throughout his career Cañete has been involved in numerous controversies and has often been accused of mingling business interests with public office, leading the Spanish newspaper El País to describe him as always being on the edge of a conflict of interest.

Read more about the dodgy credentials of the Climate Action and Energy Commissioner-designate in CEO’s investigation:http://corporateeurope.org/power-lobbies/2014/09/many-business-dealings-commissioner-designate-miguel-arias-canete

And join this event – on.fb.me/1u62RIw

Gotta LOVE Ai Weiwei!
He’s filled Alcatraz prison with a giant rainbow dragon and Lego models of 175 prisoners of conscience, from Nelson Mandela to Edward Snowden.

fricking awesome!

 

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/sep/24/ai-weiwei-alcatraz-lego-extraordinary Jason Farago, theguardian.com,

 

@ Large, Ai Weiwei https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dpzg5c8GKdw

 

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei talks about his newest exhibition at the Alcatraz prison. Take a tour of his large scale installations using Lego, traditional kites and porcelain flowers at the famous San Francisco penitentiary

The show also features portraits of political prisoners and exiles – including NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Ai, who is unable to leave China after his passport was confiscated by authorities three years ago, planned and designed the exhibition from his Beijing studio
http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/video/2014/sep/24/ai-weiwei-alcatraz-large-art-video

 

SLIDE SHOW|9 Photos

Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz

 

Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz

CreditThor Swift for The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Judging from the large bags of colorful Legos on the floor and dozens of plastic base plates piled on tables, this room could have been the activities station for a well-funded summer camp. And the five women and men drifting in and out, slicing open boxes and rooting around for the right size toy bricks, were young enough to pass as camp counselors.

Only the place where they were working is the opposite of summer camp: Alcatraz, the notoriously bleak military prison turned maximum-security penitentiary turned national park. With its banks of small windows and a “gun gallery” for surveillance, this building is where inmates once laundered military uniforms. It’s usually off limits to tourists.

But starting Sept. 27, visitors will be able to see for themselves, spread across the floor, where so many Legos were heading: an ambitious installation by the Chinese activist-artist Ai Weiwei, featuring 176 portraits of prisoners of conscience and political exiles around the world — from the South African leader Nelson Mandela and the Tibetan pop singer Lolo to the American whistle-blower Edward Snowden — composed of 1.2 million Lego pieces. The work is part of an exhibition running through April 26 called “@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz,” organized by For-Site, a San Francisco producer of public art, in the prison hospital, A Block cells, dining hall and that former laundry building.

Photo

Ai Weiwei in his Beijing studio.CreditJan Stürmann/For-Site Foundation

Given Mr. Ai’s sharp critiques of the Chinese government and the tireless campaigning for freedom of expression that led to his own imprisonment in 2011, he could have included himself in the group portrait. He did not. But his 81-day detainment, a numbing and mostly solitary confinement, fueled some of the exhibition’s themes, and the seizure of his passport at that time — it was never returned — has shaped the making of this show.

“Even now, I am still in a soft detention, my passport withheld by the state and my right to move freely across borders restricted,” he explained in a series of lengthy email exchanges.

His situation makes the “@Large” title seem wishful, if not ironic, and raises questions both practical and philosophical. How exactly did this outspoken artist manage to realize this site-specific exhibition without ever visiting the site and despite an ever-present risk of reincarceration? And to what extent are installations like this — which required more than 100 volunteers in San Francisco and For-Site staffers on Alcatraz Island helping with assembly, as well as Amnesty International contributing research — truly Mr. Ai’s work?

Certainly, the monumental Lego installation, “Trace,” has his fingerprints all over it. A few celebrity freedom fighters aside, most of the portraits showcase figures “forgotten by society,” he said. One is Shin Suk-ja, a South Korean prisoner of North Korea who was sent into penal labor with her two daughters in 1987 after her husband defected to Europe. Ms. Shin appears to have died in captivity, according to an information binder provided by For-Site.

The new work recalls Mr. Ai’s responses to the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, which provoked him to identify students killed as a result of shoddy school construction and to create perhaps his most powerful installation, “Remembering.” His mural in Munich in 2009 used 9,000 custom-made children’s backpacks to spell out his message: “She lived happily in this world for seven years.”

His Lego work likewise provides a visual accounting, creating conceptually a community of prisoners too large to be ignored.

“I think it’s a big leap for Weiwei, addressing free speech issues and human rights violations not just in China but globally,” said Cheryl Haines, the founder of For-Site. Asked whether his broader focus could help protect him from retaliation or reincarceration by his own government, she responded: “I honestly don’t know the answer. The Chinese government is so unpredictable in its responses.”

Mr. Ai, long a fan of clay bricks for their simplicity, said the idea of toy bricks came in part from witnessing his 5-year-old son’s “endless passion” for Legos. “They are very simple and straightforward, but can also be easily destroyed and taken apart, ready to be remade and reimagined,” he wrote. “I like the idea of using this language and material as an expression of human nature and the hand of creation.”

He largely managed the assembly process from his Beijing studio. He made several sample Lego portraits before generating digital blueprints for the full suite, breaking down each portrait into four or more templates used by the volunteers. To keep details of the show under wraps until completion, volunteers were never shown images of the full artwork.

He also sent three assistants from his studio to California to coordinate the Lego project, and two others (“different skill sets,” he noted) to install near it a massive dragon kite made by Chinese artisans from traditional bamboo and fabric. The body of the kite features emblems of some 30 countries implicated in “Trace.”

The kite is “symbolic of freedom,” he wrote, even more so within a prison setting. The work also has personal associations, from his boyhood in the 1960s, when he built a kite with his father, the poet Ai Qing, who by then had been banished by Mao’s regime to the Gobi Desert and forced to clean toilets.

The family lived in a hole dug in the earth. To build a kite, father and son obtained the bamboo rods from a neighbor’s door curtain and “collected string from all families nearby,” Mr. Ai wrote.

“All materials were precious,” he continued. “I will never forget the first time I saw the kite hanging far from us in the wind, so far out that our eyes had to search for its position in the sky.”

Another installation, set in the penitentiary dining hall, allows visitors to send postcards to many of the prisoners in “Trace,” a gesture inspired by Mr. Ai’s memory of his own acute loneliness when detained. Clusters of tiny porcelain flowers planted in toilets and sinks of the hospital examination rooms reflect his penchant for using this traditional material in unlikely ways.Though Mr. Ai, 57, is Internet-savvy, with more than 250,000 Twitter followers, he is blocked from visiting certain websites and has slow download times like other Chinese residents. He thus relied on For-Site as his collaborator on one research-intensive, permissions-heavy art work in particular: a sound installation in Cell Block A. The cells, usually closed to tourists, look decrepit, their paint peeling and plumbing corroded, but 12 will be opened for visitors to enter, sit on a stool and listen to recordings by famous political prisoners, from the music of Fela Kuti of Nigeria and Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist group, to poetry readings by Liao Yiwu of China and Mahjoub Sharif, who died in April in Sudan.

Ms. Haines of For-Site played a critical role in the project, raising $3.5 million from mainly private sources to cover expenses, including $460,000 for Legos. No government money was provided, but she worked closely on research and visitor logistics with the National Park Service, which oversees Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, a nonprofit group.

Back in 2011, while Mr. Ai was imprisoned, she was busy organizing an exhibition on the Golden Gate Bridge, tied to its 75th anniversary. It provided a good vantage for looking out at Alcatraz. “I kept thinking this would be a great place to activate with art,” she said.

Visiting Mr. Ai’s studio in Beijing after his release, Ms. Haines planted the seed with him. “I immediately accepted her offer,” he wrote.

On later visits, she brought him at his studio, which she describes as “very calm and well organized,” books and movies exploring the history and legends of Alcatraz, photographs of the prison, and site plans of buildings. In April, she carried in three conspicuous suitcases filled with Legos because his studio was unable to obtain enough for its prototypes. But customs officials never questioned her about them.

“In most cases, the authorities will not interfere with my art practice,” Mr. Ai explained. “Normally, interference only happens after the exhibition has already begun.”

Conveying the physical facts of the prison to him was easy, she said. “What’s harder to communicate is the emotive or sensory content, the feeling you have walking into a room,” she said, describing the oddly calming light of the psychiatric ward, for example. “That’s something I tried more to do with him in person.”

She described her role as facilitator and curator, adding: “It’s Weiwei’s work. It’s his vision through and through.”

Richard Koshalek, who was director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden when it organized its 2012 Ai Weiwei survey, said he, too, relied heavily on an outside curator — Mami Kataoka of Tokyo — as liaison because of the artist’s travel constraints.

While Mr. Koshalek has not seen the Alcatraz exhibition, he described the concept as “very important for the city of San Francisco” for “going beyond museums and galleries to take universal issues of human rights directly into a public site, a site with a huge history of despair, penance and rage.”

The show is not designed to drive more tourist traffic to Alcatraz Island, which the National Park Service says is already near capacity with 1.4 million to 1.5 million visitors a year. (Standard ferry tickets to Alcatraz, $30 for adults, include access to the “@Large” exhibition at no extra charge.) Visitor numbers are capped to protect the site, a seabird habitat as well as a historic landmark.

Initially, Mr. Ai envisioned visitors walking on the Lego portraits, not unlike the way museumgoers at the Tate Modern in London stepped on his carpet of one million hand-painted porcelain “sunflower seeds” in 2010 (until halted by hazardous levels of dust).

This summer, the Alcatraz plans changed: Having 5,000 sightseers daily walking on “Trace” was ruled out, Mr. Ai said, for “technical and safety reasons.”

Then there is the change he would have made to “Trace” given a slightly different timeline — a reminder that any artwork about political dissidents is bound to be a work in progress.

He would have added an image of the Chinese civil rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who represented Mr. Ai during his detention and was himself arrested in June as part of a broader push in China to punish even moderate reformers.

“I did not put him in ‘Trace,’ because I believed he would be released right away,” Mr. Ai wrote. “Time has proven that I was wrong. He has committed no crime and is still in jail. It is a massive shame that an advocate with such a strong voice has been completely silenced.”

Correction: September 18, 2014
An earlier version of this article misstated the surname of Shin Suk-ja. It is Shin, not Suk-ja.

 

Actor Michael Sheen came to our Action Group meeting on 22nd September

Michael Sheen @michaelsheen came to our UVAG meeting last night. We knew we were having a guest speaker but It was a complete surprise, only known about by our Treasurer, his wife and a select few others.

Michael asked some very pithy and poignant questions and really got stuck in.
Why was he there?
He’s doing a documentary about the Chartists and he was interested in our campaign to get our voice heard – and is drawing modern day parallels and all that…
I’m hoping the documentary will screen on the November 4th anniversary of the slaughter at John Frost Sq, Newport in 1839.

We had a good, lively discussion on the subjects of “democracy”, or more correctly, the lack of it!
He was on the money and he could also see where we (United Valleys Action Group) had been let down by the bureaucratic quagmire in the planning appeal process in Wales and also what we are trying to achieve. Michael also asked “what one change would we like to see to the political system”. It’s not every day I get to talk about the philosophical principles of Demarchy/Lotterocracy with a Hollywood superstar! But I take my chances where I get them – Demarchy is the rule by the randomly selected.
I made the point that our curse is the “career politician”, in a demarchy, politicians are randomly selected and limited to one term of 4 or 5 years, then can never stand for the same office again. Ever.

Michael Sheen has most recently been one of the main advocates for ‪#‎TheWalesWeWant‬ the Welsh government’s “conversation”, supposedly feeding into their Future Generations Bill?
There is a call for a mass day of action in Cardiff on October 11th in support of Frack Free Wales and like minded organisations.

We (UVAG) have been asked to join. It will be a great networking opportunity.

 

me with Michael Sheen

Michael Sheen with Me! Lol

UPDATE! UPDATE! UPDATE! BIG NEWS FOR FEBRUARY 24TH!

CLICK HEREhttps://discordion.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/a-nice-way-to-celebrate-my-400th-post-michael-sheen-tv-program-that-featured-united-valleys-action-group-will-be-shown-on-tuesday-24th-feb/

What a fantastic surprise!

Hollywood A Lister actor Michael Sheen popped into our fortnightly meeting.

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