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Lego: Just another brick in the wall of censorship, per Ai Weiwei

Do you have some random Lego pieces laying around—and who doesn't—that are not being put to good use? You might want to consider donating them to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Do you have some random Lego pieces laying around—and who doesn't—that are not being put to good use? You might want to consider donating them to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

The Danish toy company declined to fulfill a bulk order from Ai Weiwei for plastic bricks that he planned to use to create art pieces for an exhibition in Melbourne, Australia, in December. The company reportedly told the artist that it does not directly sell to anyone using its products to make a political statement. A massive grass-roots social media outburst supporting the dissident artist immediately sprang up, with supporters offering to send their Lego collections to Ai for use in his installation. The public response has been such, reports the BBC, that the artist is setting up Lego collection points in various cities. "In response to Lego's refusal and the overwhelming public response, Ai Weiwei has now decided to make a new work to defend freedom of speech and 'political art,' " wrote the BBC, citing a post on the artist's Instagram account today.

Previously, Ai used Lego bricks for an installation in the former Alcatraz prison, now part of the U.S. National Park Service, to fashion portraits of dissidents, including Nelson Mandela and Edward Snowden. He planned to do something similar at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, before Lego refused to fill the bulk order.

Ai Weiwei
Image courtesy Suzi King/Twitter.
Lego responded to various media outlets by pointing to a long-standing tradition of not directly selling its products to make a political statement. "We refrain—on a global level—from actively engaging in or endorsing the use of Lego bricks in projects or contexts of a political agenda," Lego spokesperson Roar Rude Trangbaek told CNN. Trangbaek added that the company denies "donations or support for projects—such as the possibility of purchasing Lego bricks in very large quantities, which is not possible through normal sales channels—where we are made aware that there is a political context."

Never one to mince words—much to the ire of the Chinese government, incidentally, which arrested him in 2011 and continues to harass him—Ai Weiwei has accused Lego of censorship and discrimination. Referencing the hugely popular Lego Movie, he tweeted, "Lego will tell us what to do, or not to do. That is awesome!"

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