The Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei has provoked controversy for the entirety of his career – particularly when he was exiled from China for subversion for his art – his sculptures have always sought to provoke thought and comment on society.
His latest work is a blatant comment on the refugee crisis – a huge inflatable boat filled with faceless inflatable people, it will soon go on display in the Prague national gallery. This will be his biggest work to date measuring 70ft and containing 278 refugees.
The installation is called ‘Law of the Journey’ and carries political weight not just because of its commentary on the Czech Republic’s reluctance to welcome refugees but also the fact that the gallery stands on a previous assembly point for Jews before they were deported to work camps during World War 2.
The exhibition also contains works that use discarded clothes from refugee camps and backpacks honouring the 500 dead children killed in the recent Sichuan earthquake.
WeiWei himself is a refugee and therefore the works have a personal depth to them besides just criticising the complacency of the western world regarding the global migrant crisis. Wei Wei says that the exhibition has been ‘a personal journey, an attempt to understand the conditions of humanity in our days’.
As Wei Wei has said before – no one is illegal.
People have always moved, the world is not static, dehumanisation is not the solution.