From living in a dugout in Little Siberia to his friendship with Allen Ginsberg in New York, artist and activist Ai Weiwei reveals what drives his restless creativity

Ai Weiwei is hard to pin down. For the first few minutes of our Zoom call, him bleary-eyed at his computer, I think he’s talking to me from his new base in Portugal. My mistake – it’s Vienna, where he’s planning a show for next March. A year and a half ago, Ai was giving interviews about his new life in Britain; before that it was Germany, the country that offered him safe harbour when he finally left China in 2015, after years of hounding by the authorities and a spell in detention. So where does he actually live?

“Yeah, the question always comes up,” he says sheepishly. He moved to Cambridge so his son, Ai Lao, could improve his English. His son is still there, but in the meantime, “I found a piece of land near Lisbon, so I’m kind of settled there, but that’s only for the past year”.

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