April 21, 2011 4:28 AM EDT

Ai Weiwei, who has been the subject of many news headlines as of late, has extended his attention beyond the art world—addressing the reality of China’s social problems and shedding light on the corruption within the Chinese government. Ai utilizes art to voice political dissidence and poses questions to the authority. The result of integrating his social activism elevates his art practice to a more universal forum and forces viewers to consider the problems of the real world beyond his work.

Ai works across many mediums, including sculpture, performance, and photography—perhaps as a device to reach a larger audience—thus, garnering activism throughout the art world.

Updated: Feb. 13, 2014, 2:30 p.m. E.T. This year's New York Fashion Week marked the first time everyday Instagram users were treated like industry insiders at a major designer's runway show — and that's a big deal. Granting exclusive, unprecedented access to your average Joe — who just happens to be great at posting Instagram pictures — has become the next big thing in the evolving relationship between high fashion and social media. And yet, at the same time, it seems like a natural progression: from street style photographers to fashion bloggers, the industry has already undergone a major shift in recent years by recognizing those who land a foothold in fashion through unconventional means. Now, it's including the average Instagram user — who doesn't even necessarily need to know that much about fashion. The NYFW InstaMeet featured in the video above was hosted by popular Instagrammers Brian Difeo and Anthony Danielle, who were hired by Tommy Hilfiger to organize the event. The pair publicized the InstaMeet through their Instagram accounts (they each have more than 100,000 followers) and received almost 300 applications. (For those unfamiliar with the term, an InstaMeet is an event organized for Instagram users, or Instagrammers, to meet and create photo content together.) Difeo and Danielle first started organizing InstaMeets for fun in early 2011 and have since partnered with six different brands, but the NYFW InstaMeet stands out. "The unique thing is that we cast such a wide net," Difeo said. "For our other InstaMeets, the client wants an influential group of people." Tommy Hilfiger, on the other hand, was very particular about "democratizing the runway experience" by selecting a group of average Instagram users — who got to visit backstage, have spots at the Tommy Hilfiger Women's Fall 2014 show, and meet the designer himself. The 20 Instagrammers have a following ranging from about 500 followers to a few thousand; to put this in context, fashion bloggers like Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad and Aimee Song from Song of Style, who were seated front row at the show, have more than 1 million followers. Social media experts point out that Tommy Hilfiger missed out on millions of views by giving those spots at the InstaMeet to average users instead of famous fashion bloggers — but what he lost in potential publicity, he made up for by featuring users with fresher perspectives and trying something new in the already-crowded social media marketing space. In past years, interesting Fashion Week shows with social media twists included Topshop's Google Hangout stream of their live fashion show and Kenneth Cole's iPhone runway walk — but it's always a challenge to stay ahead of the curve. "It was cool last year when nobody did it, but now everyone did it, so now who's going to think of the next cool thing and what else are they going to do?" said Jessica Sfera, digital and social media coordinator at Diesel. "It just gets increasingly hard to get through the clutter." Social media events dominate at Fashion Week: Lucky also hosted an InstaMeet by asking readers to post Instagrams of their favorite fashion items, through which a team then selected 15 users to tour Lincoln Center, snag a glimpse of models backstage before a show, and get a close-up look the BCBG runway post-show. (They didn't get to see the actual shows; Fashion Week tickets are tough to come by.) Additionally, the Marc Jacobs Tweet Shop last weekend allowed customers to "buy" products using only Tweets, Instagrams, and Facebook posts as "social currency" when they used the hashtag #MJDaisyChain. So are these events democratizing the long-elitist institution of high fashion, or diluting its power by letting any random Instagram user participate in the process? That remains unclear, but either way, it won't stop here — as social media grows ever-more ubiquitous, even the most highbrow fashion houses will have no choice but to embrace the change. This post has been updated with additional information about the bloggers in attendance at the show.
This year's New York Fashion Week marked the first time everyday Instagram users were treated like industry insiders at a major designer's runway show — and that's a big deal

Study of Perspective is a series of images, shot from 1995 to 2003, showing the artist flipping the middle finger against different places across the globe—many of which are iconic landmarks of their respective countries. The gesture, captured utilizing a snapshot aesthetic, confronts its viewer with a universal and concise statement of political opposition.

If you've seen one study about the state of diversity in Hollywood, you won't be surprised by the results of the latest. A new study from UCLA examines the gender and racial makeup of nearly 1200 movies and TV shows from 2011-2012 — and the data show that minorities and women are underrepresented, compared to real-life U.S. demographics, both in front of and behind the camera. Of course, film and television have never accurately represented how diverse America really is: Statistics show that there are three nonwhite people in America for every nonwhite character on the big screen; in terms of lead roles on broadcast TV comedies and dramas, there are seven nonwhite people in America for every nonwhite character. Similarly, there are half as many women in films as in real life — although the amount of female lead roles on broadcast TV is on the upswing. But the UCLA study goes one step further than most such diversity counts, taking a look at not only actors, filmmakers and awards, but also agencies. Agents serve as the "gatekeepers" of the industry — but the biggest agencies have fallen far behind in keeping their rosters of clients diverse, at least racially. Minority actors and creators tend to be represented by smaller agencies, whose clients find less high-profile work. The talent getting through the gate, then, are largely non-minority directors, writers and actors. In a statement, study co-author Ana-Christina Ramon explained: There are certain major projects that you just don't get to be part of unless you have a connection with one of these top agencies... Or maybe you get to be a part of it, but you're not going to be the lead. So the tendency of top agencies to pack their talent rosters with whites really restricts access to opportunities for underrepresented groups. As it turns out, the data backs her up: The three top agencies represented about 70% of all the film directors included in the study, but those directors were less than half as diverse a group as the other 30%, who were represented by smaller agencies. Similar figures held true for screenwriters. Among film actors, those three agencies represented 72% of the actors. Those actors were only about 7% minorities; the remaining 28% of actors were 19% minority. On TV, 74% of the creators were represented by those three agencies, and they were 2% minorities. The rest of the creators, not at those agencies, were 24% minority. One bright spot: broadcast TV's lead actors at the big agencies were slightly more diverse than at the smaller agencies, but still didn't quite reflect the actual racial diversity of the United States. The inclusion of agencies in this study points to something that's rarely discussed in the ongoing debate about diversity in entertainment: Because the actor-director relationship is the most visible one in Hollywood, it's easy to talk about casting in a vacuum. Yes, a powerful filmmaker can demand a higher level of diversity, but if a nonwhite actor can't even find representation with a major agency, the filmmaker's options are limited. This issue recalls the recent controversy leading up to SNL's decision to cast a black female comedian, which drew attention to a perceived lack of diversity in comedy's training grounds — like the Upright Citizen's Brigade — and the obstacles casting directors encounter even when they do try to find more nonwhite actors. Especially when a project doesn't come with a powerful creator who can overrule trends to pick the cast he or she wants (like Lorne Michaels or Jerry Seinfeld could), it matters that the top agencies are backing disproportionately white clients. Ultimately, it all comes down to money. A big agent is a stamp of approval for a filmmaker or TV creator, indicating that the client is less of a risk to cast. However, the UCLA study's conclusion isn't all bad news: the authors found that films with greater than 20% minority casts made significantly more money worldwide than the films for which that figure was 10% or lower; TV ratings were also higher for more diverse shows. So does a diverse cast draw viewers, or do better shows tend to cast more minorities? There's no way to know for sure, but it does mean that a Hollywood concerned about its bottom line should probably start paying attention. (MORE: Jerry Seinfeld’s Diversity Deficit: What’s the Deal With This ‘PC Nonsense’?)
A new study goes one step beyond counting actors and directors — and actually checks up on their agents, too

His photography, in particular, has taken form not only within the confines of a museum, but also on his Twitpic account, where he captured images of himself in the hospital while recovering from brain surgery to correct a cerebral hemorrhage in September 2009. The hemorrhage believed to be the result of a brutal police beating in August of the same year. The images act to document the extent in which the Chinese government will take to eliminate dissidents.

Most recently, Ai was detained by the Chinese governent for “economic crimes” and has yet to be released. This detention follows an incident earlier this year in January, in which Ai’s studio was demolished by order of the Chinese government.

For more news on the artist read the latest story on TIME’s Global Spin.

See the 2011 TIME 100.

More Must-Read Stories From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com.

You May Also Like