In both cases, for the Weiweis and Great Barringtonians of the world, it’s not about helping people. It’s about letting people know how much they care. Perhaps the toy store proprietor I quarreled with wants to sell the $675 “rhodium-plated cast of the artist’s hand giving the middle finger” that Weiwei is auctioning off. (Great Barringtonians, I’m willing to give you the middle finger for a lot less than $675.)
But this isn’t just some frivolous money grab to pay for Weiwei’s Manhattan flat. Curbed NY explains for those of us who just don’t get it: “the cast is not just for shock value; it recalls the artist’s Study of Perspective series, in which Ai photographed himself giving the finger to landmarks and monuments ‘in a rejection of authority and political oppression, and in support of individual expression.’”
Maybe. Or maybe Weiwei and affluent Berkshires residents are just self-soothing cynics. Maybe it’s unbearable finger-wagging to tell people who work for a living that they’re bigots if they don’t want the same refugee crime wave that Europe is dealing with. Maybe those most concerned with the refugees’ plight ought to take them into their own towns, instead of dumping the obligation and the tab on broke municipalities in a state running out of money.