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ai weiwei installs 2000 life jackets of syrian refugees at québec royal battery

ai weiwei questions the migration crisis

 

For the 9th annual edition of Québec City’s Passages Insolites art fair, humanitarian activist artist Ai Weiwei presents his monumental new artwork, Life Jackets. The poignant installation takes over a defensive rampart of the Royal Battery in Québec, Canada, questioning local history and European colonization. Exhibiting a colourful wall of 2000 life vests that were once used by Syrian refugees and collected in Greece by the artist himself, Ai Weiwei presents a sensitive socio-political commentary on the dangers of the migration crisis. 

ai weiwei installs 2000 life jackets of syrian refugees at québec royal battery
all images by Stéphane Bourgeois

 

 

2000 life jackets take over Québec’s Passages Insolites 2022

 

For the Life Jackets installation, in 2016 on the Greek island of Lesbos, Ai Weiwei recovered 2000 life vests that once belonged to Syrian refugees fleeing to Europe, now agglomerated to build a colorful symbolic border occupying the ramparts of the Royal Battery. Along the small moat, like a fortified military barricade, these remnants of the migration crisis confront the audience with the dangerous journeys of those desperately trying to escape the violence of war.

 

With its context, the contemporary Chinese artist’s large-scale installation not only resonates with, but also questions local history, echoing the migratory roots of European colonization in Canada. The Royal Battery was originally built by the French in 1961 as a military defense structure to counter English invasion attempts. By evoking the border demarcations that still govern human mobility, the architectural structure reinforces the purpose of the work that covers it.

ai weiwei installs 2000 life jackets of syrian refugees at québec royal battery
2000 life jackets take over the defensive ramparts of the Royal Battery

 

 

a poignant and monumental installation

 

Life Jackets is the newest iteration from a series of site-specific installations first exhibited in Berlin and Vienna in 2016, and then in Copenhagen in 2017. Now presented in Québec City for its major North American premier, Ai Weiwei’s monumental installation took over 10 days of work, mobilizing nearly 15 full-time staff members. Alongside 15 other thought-provoking artworks displayed at Passages Insolites 2022, Weiwei’s signature artwork of the fair will occupy the ramparts of the Royal Battery in a sensitive and poignant display between June 25 and October 10, 2022.

 

Humanitarian activist artist Ai Weiwei is renowned for his committed, iconoclastic, and subversive practice that criticizes the economic, political, and social power imbalances in the world. Considered one of the most important living artists on the international scene, in 2021 Weiwei was named the most influential artist in the world by Art Review magazine. 

ai weiwei installs 2000 life jackets of syrian refugees at québec royal battery
the installation presents a sensitive socio-political commentary on the dangers of the migration crisis

ai weiwei installs 2000 life jackets of syrian refugees at québec royal battery
in 2016, Ai Weiwei recovered the life jackets on the Greek island of Lesbos himself

ai weiwei installs 2000 life jackets of syrian refugees at québec royal battery
Life Jackets echoes the migratory roots of European colonization in Canada

ai-weiwei-2000-life-jackets-quebec-royal-battery-designboom-6

these remnants of the migration crisis confront the audience with the dangerous journeys of those escaping the violence of war

ai weiwei installs 2000 life jackets of syrian refugees at québec royal battery
the Royal Battery was built by the French in 1961 as a military defense structure to counter English invasion

ai-weiwei-2000-life-jackets-quebec-royal-battery-designboom-7

Ai Weiwei presents installation Life Jackets at Québec City’s Passages Insolites 2022 art fair

 

 

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ai weiwei installs 2000 life jackets of syrian refugees at québec royal battery
 
ai weiwei installs 2000 life jackets of syrian refugees at québec royal battery
 
ai weiwei installs 2000 life jackets of syrian refugees at québec royal battery
 
ai weiwei installs 2000 life jackets of syrian refugees at québec royal battery
 

project info:

 

name: Life Jackets — at Passages Insolites 2022
designer: Ai Weiwei

 

 

designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions’ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

 

edited by: ravail khan | designboom

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