In this beautifully illustrated and deeply philosophical graphic memoir, legendary artist Ai Weiwei explores the connection between artistic expression and intellectual freedom through the lens of the Chinese zodiac..
ZODIAC: A GRAPHIC MEMOIR
by Ai Weiwei
illustrated by Gianluca Costantini
Ten Speed Graphic, January 2024
As a child living in exile during the Cultural Revolution, Ai Weiwei often found himself with nothing to read but government-approved comic books. Although they were restricted by the confines of political propaganda, Ai Weiwei was struck by the artists’ ability to express their thoughts on art and humanity through graphic storytelling. Now, decades later, Ai Weiwei and Italian comic artist Gianluca Costantini present ZODIAC, Ai Weiwei’s first graphic memoir.
Inspired by the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac and their associated human characteristics, Ai Weiwei masterfully interweaves ancient Chinese folklore with stories of his life, family, and career. The narrative shifts back and forth through the years—at once in the past, present, and future—mirroring memory and our relationship to time. As readers delve deeper into the beautifully illustrated pages of ZODIAC, they will find not only a personal history of Ai Weiwei and an examination of the sociopolitical climate in which he makes his art, but a philosophical exploration of what it means to find oneself through art and freedom of expression.
Contemplative and political, ZODIAC will inspire readers to return again and again to Ai Weiwei’s musings on the relationship between art, time, and our shared humanity.
Ai Weiwei leads a diverse and prolific practice that encompasses sculptural installation, filmmaking, photography, ceramics, painting, writing, and social media. Born in Beijing, China, in 1957, he is a conceptual artist who fuses traditional craftsmanship and his Chinese heritage, moving freely between a variety of formal languages to reflect on contemporary geopolitical and sociopolitical conditions. Ai Weiwei’s work and life regularly interact and inform one another, often extending to his activism and advocacy for international human rights.
Gianluca Costantini is an Italian cartoonist, comic journalist, and activist. He has contributed to numerous publications and is the author of several graphic novels. He is well know for his drawing related to human rights campaigns all over the world. He collaborates with organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, ActionAid, and SOS Méditerranée. In 2019, he received the Art and Human Rights Award from Amnesty International.