Ai Weiwei brings his visual comments on migrants to the pond of Vienna’s palace
Visitors to Vienna’s Belvedere Palace were confronted Wednesday with 1,005 refugees’ life jackets drifting in the baroque pond – courtesy of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.
The installation, entitled “F Lotus”, consists of 201 rings each holding five life jackets – retrieved from the Greek island of Lesbos – arranged in the letter “F” and floating like lotus flowers.
Ai, who in February this year attached 14,000 life jackets to the columns of a Berlin concert house, says the work is his way of addressing the tragedy of Europe’s migrant crisis.
Despite the mixed responses to his intervention in Berlin, the Chinese descendant artist has brought his first solo exhibition “translocation – transformation” to Austria for the first time.
“There are more than 500,000 life jackets left on (Lesbos) and it looks like a landscape,” he says. “It is something so related to individuals. It could be the last thing you grab when you have to escape.”
Spanning multiple locations from the 21er Haus to the Upper Belvedere, the exhibition features a number of large-scale installations and interventions that explore and address the main theme of “translocation – transformation,” which the 21er Haus defines as the metamorphosis caused by the migration, deliberate relocation, and expulsion of people and objects.
Surrounded by the pond is his remarkable installation “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads”. The iconic installation “Wang Family Ancestral Hall” and gigantic installation “Teahouse” and “Spouts” are displayed in the 21er Haus.
The artist went too far for some earlier this year when he recreated the death pose of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler found dead on a Turkish beach in 2015, in a photo shoot for an Indian magazine.
China’s most prominent contemporary artist helped design the Bird’s Nest stadium for the Beijing Olympics, but his works have often fallen foul of China’s authorities. In 2011, he was detained for 81 days.
Migrants on the march
“Ai Weiwei translocation – transformation” is at the 21er Haus in Vienna through November 20