It’s a familiar sight for many of us and now artist and activist Ai Weiwei has constructed a 61 metre rubber lifeboat with statues of adults and children crammed inside for the Sydney Biennale. The purpose of the piece is to remind visitors that the global refugee crisis is still leaving thousands of people displaced around the world.
The sculpture is currently on display at Sydney’s Cockatoo Island, an island historically used to build ships.
The vessel is made out of the same inflatable material used by refugees to escape their countries and holds more than 300 passengers, all faceless and all the same rubber black colour. This piece titled Law of the Journey is one of two of Ai’s work at the Biennale. The second is the Crystal Ball, a one metre transparent sphere atop a collection of orange life jackets. Ai collected these life jackets from the Greek island of Lesbos where in 2015 and 2016, thousands of refugees fled from war and economic instability in the Middle East. The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) estimate 16,000 people have drowned and or gone missing attempting to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey.
The political artist, known for creating tons of controversy in his home nation of China for standing up for human rights, has spent the last few years focusing on refugee rights. Previous artworks have included the documentation of conditions and experiences of displaced refugees. This can be seen in his 2017 film, Human Flow.
Speaking to the Biennale press Ai said,
“There’s no refugee crisis, only a human crisis… In dealing with refugees we’ve lost our very basic values. In this time of uncertainty, we need more tolerance, compassion and trust for each other, since we are all one, otherwise humanity will face an even bigger crisis.”
The Sydney Biennale displays 70 artists from 35 different countries and will run until the 11 June 2018. You can visit their website HERE.