Contemporary artists are renown for making statements about society with their pieces. It is a smaller pool of artists within this that actively call for social reform surrounding the conversation of their work. However, none may call as loudly or vehemently as contemporary Chinese artist and activist, Ai Weiwei.
Weiwei’s most recent projects surround the refugee crisis. At the lower levels, he uses his social media almost solely as a platform for the crisis. At the higher levels, the artist has been busy with art installations and movements popping up across Europe. His work has been rather controversial, ultimately stirring the pot in creating a discussion of where the line is drawn between art and activism. Take a look at the following ways Weiwei has left his signature on the situation and decide for yourself if his voice is offensive or compassionate.
September 17: Organized and led a “Walk of Compassion” in London with Anish Kapoor, a British-Indian sculptor.
Early February: Covered his 12 zodiac animal head sculptures on display in Prague with gold thermal blankets as a “gesture in defending the dignity of refugees.”
February 13: Wrapped the columns of Berlin’s Konzerthaus concert hall with 14,000 salvaged refugee life vests. The temporary installment was made for the Cinema of Peace Gala where Weiwei had the room of high-profile socialites, including actress Charlize Theron, take selfies in thermal blankets.
“We are all refugees somehow, somewhere and at some moment. We are trying to do positive action: by opening a certain spirit, a certain poetic space, we can at least hope to change how we think about the problem.”
*Ai Weiwei was held prisoner by the Chinese government for 81 days in 2011 with no official charges.