With his new exhibition Law of the Journey, Ai Weiwei continues to explore the enormity of the refugee humanitarian crisis. A refugee himself, Ai Weiwei has dedicated the last two years of his career to creating politically charged artwork that speaks to the issue.
“There’s no refugee crisis, but only human crisis… In dealing with refugees we’ve lost our very basic values,” states the Chinese artist, one of the most powerful figures in contemporary art. Hosted in the Trade Fair Palace by the National Gallery of Prague, his work is a “multi-layered, epic statement on the human condition.”
The location itself is a powerful reminder of how history repeats itself. Built in 1928, the Trade Fair Palace was an assembly point for Jews before their deportation to the Terezín concentration camp. Here, under the weight of its past, the hall is a vessel for Ai Weiwei’s new, epic installation.
An immense, overcrowded rubber boat filled with bodies unfurls across the space. The boat is suspended from the ceiling, much as the fate of its passengers hangs in the balance. Stuck in limbo, without knowledge of what is to come, they huddle together as they move toward a new future.
Tellingly, bodies are littered around the boat. Fallen soldiers during the arduous crossing, some whom have already passed, others who reach out for safety—they are a reminder of just how perilous these journeys can be.
In addition to this new piece, the exhibition also includes previous work, such as Laundromat, where clothes and shoes collected from a refugee camp are meticulously laid out, and Snake Ceiling. This monumental piece is dedicated to 5,000 schoolchildren who lost their lives during an earthquake in China in 2008.
Law of the Journey will be on display at the National Gallery of Prague until January 7, 2018.