Ai Weiwei Builds Fences To Highlight Attitudes Towards Immigration

The Chinese dissident artist and activist Ai Weiwei will return to New York with gallery shows covering four venues. He will utilise the public exhibitions as a metaphor for his travel ban in China as well as the U.S. attitudes towards immigration under the leadership of Donald Trump. Mr Ai has been commissioned by the Public Art Fund to execute an art installation set to be unveiled 12 October 2017. “Good Fences Make Good Neighbours,” will place 10 large fence-themed works and more than 90 smaller installations across Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, to highlight “a retreat from the essential attitude of openness in American politics,” he stated.

“The fence has always been a tool in the vocabulary of political landscaping” Ai Weiwei

“I was an immigrant in New York in the 1980s for ten years and the issue with the migration crisis has been a longtime focus of my practice. The fence has always been a tool in the vocabulary of political landscaping and evokes associations with words like ‘border,’ ‘security,’ and ‘neighbor,’ which are connected to the current global political environment. But what’s important to remember is that while barriers have been used to divide us, as humans we are all the same. Some are more privileged than others, but with that privilege comes a responsibility to do more.”

The title pays homage to the Robert Frost work “Mending Wall,” in which the poet says; “When the Berlin Wall fell, there were 11 countries with border fences and walls,” Weiwei explains. “By 2016, that number had increased to 70. We are witnessing a rise in nationalism, an increase in the closure of borders, and an exclusionary attitude towards migrants and refugees, the victims of war and the casualties of globalisation.”

The Public Art Fund commissioned his latest work to mark its 40th anniversary. Nicholas Baume, who’s been the organisation’s director and chief curator since 2009, said, “This is the most ambitious that we’ve undertaken since I’ve been here. Certainly, it’s the most distributed throughout the city.” First lady of New York Chirlane McCray said, “Ai Weiwei pours his heart and soul into art that asks big questions and is not constrained by artistic and social traditions. [with “Good Fences Make Good Neighbours”] he challenges us to think about the function and rationale for a common barrier. Given that the immigrant experience is at the core of what binds us as New Yorkers, the exhibition compels us to question the rhetoric and policies that seek to divide us.”

“Good Fences Make Good Neighbours” will open on Octobre 12th. Some of the planned locations include Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, JCDecaux bus shelters in Brooklyn, Cooper Union, Essex Street Market, and Doris C. Freedman Plaza at the south-east corner of Central Park.

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