Ai WeiWei, Instagram and a Piano for a Refugee
(Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Last year, Chinese dissident and humanitarian artist Ai Weiwei created a site-specific installation at Alcatraz Island, a notorious prison closed some forty years, now part of the California Parks Service. Using kites, legos and other seemingly playful objects, he delved into the issues of free speech and incarceration. (Read more here:Free Speech @LARGE: AI WEIWEI ON ALCATRAZ )
Ai WeiWei, the Chinese-born impresario of diversity in architectural design, installation, photography, sculpture and multimedia, is known for his outspoken views of protest against China’s repression of free speech. While other lesser-known dissident voices in China, (even 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo) languish in prison for their views without the same level of notoriety to protect them, Ai has become an international hero championing freedom of expression for all.
Alison Klayman’s compelling 2012 documentary “Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry” documents the artist’s brilliance and bravery in the face of governmental brutality and censorship. The film follows Ai as he fearlessly expresses himself through social media and artmaking, with cameras rolling as Chinese authorities shut down his outspoken (and often hilarious blog), send police thugs to beat him up, and hold him in hidden detention.
On Saturday, at a refugee camp on the Greek-Macedonian border, brought a piano through the rain and invited 24-year-old Nour Al Khzam to play. A concert pianist in her homeland of Syria, she is trying to reach her husband in Germany. Ai Weiwei says of the performance, “it is not a concert, it is life itself,” and an attempt to change attitudes towards refugees.
It tells the world that art will overcome the war.–Ai Weiwei
According to Artnet,
“Ai has been an outspoken critic of the European authorities’ handling of the refugee crisis, and has realized several projects to raise awareness of the plight of migrants and refugees who are risking their lives to come to Europe. Some have gone over better than others.”
As part of his art activism, in December 2015 Ai Weiwei served as a volunteer at the Lesbos refugee camp where he used his social media channels to document the crisis of those displaced by war and poverty. In February he created an installation 14,000 life jackets at a gala venue in Berlin during the city’s Berlinale film festival in honor of refugees lost in the Aegean Sea attempted boat crossings from Turkey to Greece. That same month, the artist was criticized for recreating the image of a Syrian toddler whose body washed ashore in Turkey.
Do you think, as Ai Weiwei affirms, that art interventions can help overcome the war in Syria?
If you had no limitations, self-imposed or otherwise, what form would your own creative activism take?