The dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has presented his installation at Berlin’s Konzerthaus concert hall, fashioned from 14,000 life jackets discarded from the thousands of refugees who made the treacherous sea journey from Turkey.
The floatation devises were donated by the local government in Lesbos Greece. The sculpture highlights the enormous tragic images that have appeared all over the news, since last Summer. The fluorescent orange vests, have been tightly wrapped around the columns of the 19th century music venue. Mr Ai has made frequent trips to the Greek island of Lesbos since his release from house arrest in 2015. Mr Ai, 58 visited the island and was recently photographed on the beach posed as a deceased migrant. He aims to raise international awareness of the tragedy unfolding in Greece. Thousands of migrants have been killed trying to cross from Turkey to Greece in order to escape conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Africa.
The artist’s followers have praised Ai for highlighting the reality on the ground and taking action.“The situation that the refugees are in is so important for everyone to see,” one of the artist’s followers commented.
Ai Weiwei is one of China’s most influential artists and a major cultural phenomenon. His work is brave, provocative and visionary, and gives voice not only to his own beliefs, but also those who have no voice. Particularly powerful are his pieces which address the Chinese government’s response to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Ai became widely known in Britain after his sunflower seeds installation at Tate Modern in 2010, while globally is renowned for his activism, and works which embody political statements about creative freedom, censorship and human rights. He often re-appropriates objects to give them new cultural meaning, such as painting precious 2000-year-old vases to resemble cheap, modern-day containers, examining notions of cultural heritage, authenticity and the value of art.