Ai Weiwei (艾未未) always agitates for change
Last year, three-year-old Alan Kurdi from the Syrian city of Kobani was found dead on a beach in Turkey. His family, along with countless other refugees, had been trying to reach the Greek island Kos. The Kurdi family was making an effort to escape the horrendous conflict at home, and hopefully relocate to Canada. On that fateful and fatal day, dozens of refugees drowned at sea, including Alan’s five-year-old brother Galip and his mother Rehan. The visceral image of Alan, little and lifeless on the beach, went instantly viral and became the cynical symbol of the seemingly endless and abominable refugee crisis across the Middle East and Europe.
Chinese artist and fearless dissident Ai Weiwei posed in the irksome image of Alan last year to raise awareness and agitate for change. Speaking in a new video for the UN Refugee Agency, he said: “The refugee issue is not a local or regional issue. It’s a human rights issue, it’s about fundamental values which touch everybody.” “Alan Kurdi is not just one person. In the past year, in 2015, everyday two persons, two young persons just like him drowned. It’s very important to put myself in that condition and I always believe you have to be involved, you have to act,” he said passionately.
The controversial artist has relentlessly lobbied on behalf of disenfranchised people (at home in China and elsewhere) and has used his gutsy artwork to bring about awareness and effect change. For instance, in Vienna, Austria, Ai created an eye-popping installation made out of thousands of used life jackets worn by the refugees. He shut down his Copenhagen exhibit ‘Ruptures’ early to protest Denmark’s decision to pass a statute that confiscates valuables and personal effects from asylum-seekers in that country; he’s also in the midst of making a film with oodles of uncomfortable footage (chronicling the plight of countless migrants) amassed from his visits to the camps and enclosure sites across Europe. The artist is simply exemplary. Props, Ai Weiwei!
Image via 艾未未’s Instagram