In a great many ways, Ai Weiwei is no stranger to artistic exploitation, particularly in mediated spheres.
He has himself very frequently, and very successfully, exploited the readily extensive reach of the latter to proliferate, as an artist, his political critiques. At the same time, he has also been exploited, in some sense, by those very same spheres for the reach and popularity of his mediated artistry.
Yet that is also, almost always, the point. The efficacy of the one feeds the efficacy of the other. And given that Ai's meta-vocalized views would flail almost uselessly against the 'cultural' system out of which they hail if they weren't availed of means through which to shout therewithout, they could rather swiftly fall silent.
Or rather, he would simply be silenced. Or silence-tending attempts might be, or have been, more effective.
By now he's withstood beatings, imprisonment, bulldozings and plentiful other forms of persecution. And yet, at yet great risk, he persists. The importance of him doing so is far from trivial.
Non-trivial, too, is the simple fact that you are very likely to have heard of him whether you follow China-related news or art world buzz-speak or not.
As such, you might want to go learn a bit more about the artist at Northside Film tonight, as Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, presented by the IFC, will be screened at Union Docs at 8:30 (322 Union Avenue, in Williamsburg).
It's but one small part of a very big film festival featuring many other great options, but its smallness therein is no reflection at all of the hugeness of the discussion it begets, in which it resides—and the further discussions it might go on to beget, incite, and so forth.
So unless some 'Cultural Ambassador' has bought up all the tickets to ensure a theater of empty seats, go get yours now.
I'm pretty sure I'm kidding about that.
You can follow Paul D'Agostino on Twitter @postuccio