Ai Weiwei Unveils New Art Installation Addressing the Refugee Crisis

Ai Weiwei Unveils New Art Installation Addressing the Refugee Crisis

After visiting more than a dozen countries, the artist has returned with a new thought-provoking piece—and his largest work to date.

After visiting more than a dozen countries, the artist has returned with a new thought-provoking piece—and his largest work to date.

Text: Truman Ports

In what has been dubbed his largest piece of work to date, famed Chinese contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei has created a boat for refugees entitled "Law of the Journey," a solo exhibition in The National Gallery in Prague. The subject of the artist's latest installation is a poignant one—not only has Weiwei's art frequently addressed the refugee crisis that is plaguing the world, but the Czech president is allegedly a believer that his country should ban refugees to ensure they cannot come in and commit "barbaric attacks," not entirely dissimilar from Trump.

"Law of the Journey" is a 70-meter (230-foot) long black rubber boat that hangs from the National Gallery's ceiling in the Trade Fair Palace. On board the boat is 258 life size passengers, or, refugees, all eerily faceless and sitting next to one another. The piece directly addresses the issue of migrants who brave the dangerous journey to Europe by sea, a theme that Weiwei has worked with before in covering a Berlin concert hall with 14,000 orange life vests from Lesbos.

In the past year, the 59-year-old artist has traveled to 22 countries, all with large refugee and migrant populations, in preparation for "Law of Journey" and the current piece he's working on called Human Flow, a documentary film to be released this summer. His work is about encapsulating and invoking the experiences of refugees, but Weiwei is hesitant himself to call it a refugee crisis, as it so often is referred to as.

"It's a human crisis," Weiwei said to reporters from Agence France-Presse. "A refugee could be anybody. It could be you or me." The conceptual artist has also made it clear before that to refuse access to anyone so desperate and so in need of help is almost criminal, and certainly immoral and not beneficial to any country.

"In this time of uncertainty, we need more tolerance, compassion and trust for each other since we all are one," Weiwei said according to the National Gallery in Prague's website. "Otherwise, humanity will face an even bigger crisis."

"Law of the Journey" will run in the National Gallery in Prague until January 7, 2018.

Credits: Photo banner from Prague's National Gallery website.

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