This was Ai Weiwei’s refugee life jacket installation
Ai Weiwei - Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, Anders Sune Berg.

Ai Weiwei – Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, photo: Anders Sune Berg

Introduction

Life Jackets, was created by well-known and revered Chinese artist and activist, Ai Weiwei. For this installation, Weiwei attached a total of 14,000 life jackets that had each been utilized by various refugees to the columns of the Berlin’s Konzerthaus concert hall. Life Jackets was not the first installation created by Ai to highlight the plight of refugees. Earlier before, the artist had posed as a deceased infant in an effort to recreate the now popular photo of the dead infant that washed up on the shores of a beach in Alan Kurdi Greece.

Ai Weiwei - Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, David Stjernholm.

Ai Weiwei – Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, photo: David Stjernholm.

How the work was created

To create the installation, Ai gathered more than 14,000 life jackets which he tied together before wrapping them up and down the pillars of the Berlin Konzerthaus. The jackets had been collected from Lesbos, which is a Greek island that is often used by Syrian refugees traveling to various parts of Europe as the middle point. This middle point is where most refugees are often forced to make the decision to either jump ship or proceed with their long and challenging trip. As such, Lesvos acts as both a beacon of hope and a sign of instability for all the refugees that are involved. The lifejackets were arranged in only one night.

Ai Weiwei - Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, Anders Sune Berg.

Ai Weiwei – Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, photo: Anders Sune Berg

Ai Weiwei - Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, David Stjernholm.

Ai Weiwei – Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, photo: David Stjernholm.

Ai Weiwei - Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, Anders Sune Berg.

Ai Weiwei – Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, photo: Anders Sune Berg

Analysis

The 14,000 life jacks utilized for the installation were used to demonstrate the number of lives that are risked in search of peace. So many individuals lose their lives in search of a peaceful area to settle and Ai Weiwei created the installation to represent the huge number in a visual manner that audiences would resonate with and understand. The installation went a long way in highlighting the plight of Syrian refugees with the aim of forcing the public and the administration to do the right thing and restore peace in Syria.

Life Jackets lawsuit

In this capitalist era, it is not unusual for artists to commercialize their works and lend them for various advertising projects. However, Ai Weiwei’s Lifejackets were used unlawfully, which pushed the artist to sue the well-known brand Volkswagen for utilizing the artist’s Refugee Life Jacket Installation in one of their Ads. The trial had been in the works for at least a year is scheduled to commence in 2019.

The artist is suing Volkswagen for copyright infringement after Life Jackets was utilized as a backdrop in an ad. According to Ai Wei Wei, Volkswagen did not credit him as an artist and his artwork image was also edited and cropped without his say so. According to the artist, the lawsuit was launched as a last resort after more than a year of fruitless negotiations.

Portrait of Ai Weiwei with Volkswagen logo

Portrait of Ai Weiwei with Volkswagen logo. Photo: instagram.com

More photos

Ai Weiwei - Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, Anders Sune Berg

Ai Weiwei – Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, photo: Anders Sune Berg

Ai Weiwei - Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, David Stjernholm

Ai Weiwei – Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, photo: David Stjernholm.

Ai Weiwei - Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, David Stjernholm

Ai Weiwei – Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, photo: David Stjernholm.

Ai Weiwei - Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, Anders Sune Berg

Ai Weiwei – Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, photo: Anders Sune Berg

Ai Weiwei - Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, Anders Sune Berg.

Ai Weiwei – Soleil Levant, 2017, life jackets in front of windows of facade, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2017, photo: Anders Sune Berg

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