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In new Prague exhibit, Ai Weiwei puts spotlight on refugee crisis

Ai Weiwei launches a new installation at Veletržní Palác featuring a massive refugee boat.


PRAGUE – Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei was in Prague yesterday to launch his latest installation in an effort to bring attention to a refugee crisis that has gripped the continent. The exhibit at Veletržní Palác called “Law of the Journey,” which features a massive blow-up refugee boat, is the artist’s largest installation to date.

Ai Weiwei speaking last night at Veletržní Palác. Photo: Philip Heijmans
Ai Weiwei speaking last night at Veletržní Palác. Photo: Philip Heijmans

During a press conference launching the event, Ai Weiwei, who was himself a refugee, said that he wanted to bring context to the everyday struggles of those who were forced to flee their homes in search of asylum, an effort that has been met in Europe with prejudice and anti-Muslim sentiment. His work almost entirely focuses on advocating the refugees’ human rights and documenting their tragic condition throughout the past two years.

“I realized that there is a lot of people because of the refugees. They have to leave their country. They have to leave…their religion, their family too, and their home and they have to go very far away. I think very often those land[s] are very much more dangerous than their own land,” he said.

“So, I think I am very privileged that I can use my art to raise some voice, some questions, not necessarily right or wrong, but can be there, for people to think. It is better than being ignored by being pushed away. That is why I am here.”

During an interview with AFP, the artist referred to the politicians responsible for opposing the resettlement of refugees as “shameful.”

In addition to the centerpiece lifeboat, the exhibit also features photography and a documentary film showing lifeboats sailing across the water.

The sensitive topic has been a part of the artist’s repertoire now for years. Previously, Ai Weiwei tackling the subject at Vienna’s Belvedere Palace, where he has installed 1,005 life jackets floating in the estate’s baroque pond.

As a part of this project, Ai Weiwei visited several refugee camps in Greece, including the island of Lesvos and along the border of with Macedonia. His  the documentary Human Flow is set to premiere in 2017.

The debut is not his first time in Prague. Last year, he presented his acclaimed set of sculptures, Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads at the National Gallery.

“Law of the Journey” will be displayed until January 2018.

For more information visit, http://www.ngprague.cz/en/exposition-detail/ai-weiwei/.

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