“There’s no refugee crisis, but only human crisis… In dealing with refugees we’ve lost our very basic values.” These are the words of Ai Weiwei, one of the world’s best known contemporary artists, whose work often includes powerful political, social and human commentary. After visits to refugee camps, including on the island of Lesbos in Greece, Ai Weiwei created the “Law of the Journey” exhibition alongside the Human Flow documentary. Curated by Jiří Fajt and Adam Budak, the exhibition includes large scale sculptures and installations. The location, a building which served as an assembly point for Jewish people right before their deportation to concentration camps, has a poignant meaning that enhances the message of the main artwork further.
Visitors to the National Gallery in Prague discover a moving and thought-provoking piece. A giant 230-foot long boat, suspended in mid-air, holding over 300 dark and faceless figures. All huddled together, children in the middle for extra protection. A few figures lie underneath the boat, their journey ended prematurely. “In this time of uncertainty, we need more tolerance, compassion and trust for each other, since we all are one,” continues Ai Weiwei. Another artwork, Laundromat (2016), displays clothing from refugee camps in the style of an ordinary apparel store, with items neatly placed on racks, as if waiting for customers. Other installations include Snake Ceiling (2009), an homage to the 5,000 children who lost their lives in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, With Flowers (2013–2015), as well as Traveling Light (2007), a large chandelier anchored on a pillar dating back to the Ming dynasty.
The exhibition runs until January 2018 at the National Gallery in Prague. But if you can’t travel to Europe, we have some good news. Ai Weiwei’s next exhibition is in New York City. “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” opens on October 12 and will include over 100 fences built around the city to highlight the “exclusionary attitude towards migrants and refugees.” Photo credits: Ai Weiwei and The National Gallery in Prague.