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Ai Weiwei’s Leg Gun is a photo fad that involves raising one’s leg above the waistline and wielding it with both hands as if aiming at a target with a rifle. The pose was introduced by Chinese political dissident and renowned artist Ai Weiwei via Instagram in June 2014.
On June 11th, 2014, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei uploaded an Instagram of himself holding up his one of his legs with both hands while sitting on a chair in nothing but a pair of shorts, socks and a straw hat. The accompanying caption in Chinese read: “Beijing anti-terrorism series.” In less than a week, the photograph garnered more than 1,500 likes.
That same day, hundreds of Ai Weiwei’s followers on Instagram began sharing their own imitations of the artist’s mysterious pose, and in the next five days, more than 500 fan-submitted photographs had been featured on Wewei’s Instagram profile page.
Given the little explanation provided by the Chinese artist as to the meaning of his picture, many of those who participated in the meme offered their own interpretations along with the photographs, with Chinese bloggers speculating that it was a subversive tribute to the Chinese propaganda ballet program Red Detachment of Women in remembering the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, while American followers instilled a message of anti-gun violence using the hashtag #endgunviolence in the wake of the recent school shootings in the United States.
News Media Coverage
On June 13th, the artist’s “leg gun” photo fad was initially picked up by The Guardian and Sydney Morning Herald, followed by coverage from several tech news blogs like The Daily Dot, The Verge and Cnet, as well as a number of major U.S. news outlets, including ABC News and the Washington Post.
Ai Weiwei’s Response
On June 16th, Ai Weiwei broke his silence about the leg-gun meme in an interview with the Associated Press. According to the artist, his mysterious photograph was meant to be seen as “a statement about the overuse of power in the name of counterterrorism,” particularly in China where the government has been waging an anti-terror campaign in the wake of at least two high-profile attacks on civilians in the past year.
“People from all over the world have been experiencing panic because of terrorist attacks such as 9/11 and problems such as the existence of weapons. Power is being overused in the name of counterterrorism.”
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Sydney Morning Herald – Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s bizarre ‘legs-as-guns’ meme
Washington Post – Ai Weiwei’s fake ‘leg-guns’ become Chinese Internet meme
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