Ai Weiwei has covered the pillars of a Berlin landmark with 14,000 bright orange life jackets—his latest art installation to bring global awareness to Europe’s growing refugee crisis. As a vocal critic of Europe’s response to the refugee crisis, the Chinese dissident artist recently set up a studio on the island of Lesbos, the main entry point for people fleeing to Europe, to “highlight the plight” of the refugees and collect thousands of life jackets they left behind. Ai and his team tied the 14,000 discarded life vests to the pillars of Berlin’s concert hall overnight, just weeks after Ai shuttered his Danish exhibition, Ruptures, in protest at the country’s asylum-seeker law.
Unveiled on February 13, 2016 in the midst of the 66th Berlinale International Film Festival, Ai Weiwei’s latest art installation features thousands of life vests tied onto the pillars of the city’s famous Konzerthaus Berlin, a concert hall that had been rebuilt in 1984 after the original structure, the mid-19th century Schauspielhaus Berlin, was destroyed in World War II. Authorities at Lesbos helped the 58-year-old artist collect the bright orange life jackets that had been abandoned on the beaches of the Greek island of Lesbos. According to the International Organization for Migration, over 400 people have already died in 2016 in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
In addition to his studio in Lesbos, Ai Weiwei recently staged a photograph where he posed as Alan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian refugee toddler who drowned near a Turkish beach. The activist also uses his social media accounts, most notably Instagram, to highlight social issues.
Images via Ai Weiwei