Two spaces at Humanity House are covered with thousands of iPhone photos taken by artist and activist Ai Weiwei in refugee camps in Germany, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Gaza and Kenya. Relating to Refugees captures the enormity of the refugee crisis today.
Faces of hope and despair, deflated lifeboats, discarded life jackets, makeshift settlements and a day-to-day existence are captured in over 16,500 photos taken by Ai Weiwei on his iPhone during visits to refugee camps in Germany, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Gaza and Kenya. Taken together, the images in Relating to Refugees convey the massive scale of the refugee crisis.
As a political refugee, Ai Weiwei feels an affinity with the growing numbers of migrants who are trying to reach Europe. He documents the migration of hundreds of thousands of individuals who have fled from oppression in one system, and who then often encounter strict asylum procedures and xenophobia in another system.
Since his first visit to the Greek island of Lesbos in December 2015, the Instagram feed of Ai Weiwei and his team has become something of a real-time news service. As a contemporary tapestry, Relating to Refugees also symbolizes Ai Weiwei’s use of the Internet and social media platforms. He considers blogs, Twitter and Instagram as democratic spaces that allow for free speech and expression and as platforms to raise awareness.
Relating to Refugees was previously part of the exhibition #SafePassage by Ai Weiwei, on show at Foam Amsterdam in the autumn of 2016.
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