The “Jade Handcuffs” represents superb creativity and aesthetic taste of Ai, but more significantly, it is a powerful indictment to the injustice imposed on him by the government that suppresses liberty and democracy. The complex issues behind the simple-looking craftwork are noteworthy and deserve to be reflected upon.
Ai Weiwei was born in 1957, Beijing. He is always recognized as a reputable artist who has been crafting a variety of art works throughout his career and also a cultural arbiter in terms of his heavy condemnation of the Chinese Communist Party by the public media. “The Jade handcuffs” is fairly small in scale, has nine serrates, and it was carved out from black Jade stone. According to Lisson gallery, this art piece was initially sold for 70,000 Euros in 2013 and subsequently made its debut in Ai’s first retrospective show: According To What? This craftwork signifies Ai’s 81 days in detention by Chinese government in 2011. After his release, he used the exact image of the handcuff used on him in jail to create this piece which was carved from jade stone which is a precious Chinese material that is often used as family heirlooms in ancient China. Jade is also a symbolic stone because it is used to represent and reminiscent of the prosperous and China’s imperial past. The sublime quality of black jade gives the artwork a warm smooth touch. His brilliant choice of medium recalls an ancient artistic heritage while at the same time referring to the repressive nature of the current political system.2
Regardless of the simple appearance of Ai’s handcuff, the craftsmanship involved in its production is quiet complicated. Ai worked with a highly skillful carver while making his handcuffs. The carvers’ skill is particularly evident in the interlocking rings that form the chain, which were neither joined nor glued, but rather cut of the same single