Exhibition: – 7 Dec 2016
Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam
1017 DS Amsterdam
Mon-Wed 10-18; Thu-Fri 10-21; Sat-Sun 10-18
This autumn, Foam will present a large solo exhibition by the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei (1957, China).
As a political refugee who lived under constant government surveillance, the artist feels related to the growing influx of refugees attempting to enter Europe. Since his first visit to the Greek island of Lesbos in December 2015, he and his team have travelled to refugee camps all around the Mediterranean, including in Syria, Turkey, Italy, Israel and France.
The exhibition in Foam will deal with the fate of the individual versus the overruling systems of society, switching from Ai Weiwei’s personal experiences as a refugee of the Chinese Government, to the hundreds of thousands refugees and migrants who risked their lives to reach Europe, only to find their path barred by a succession of border closures.
Alongside marble sculptures and films, Ai Weiwei will cover the walls of Foam with thousands of photographs taken on his mobile phone. This immense collage will reflect on all the personal encounters the artist has had with individuals and the tragic situation unfolding in the Mediterranean, bringing to our attention what is, in his own words, "the biggest, most shameful humanitarian crisis since World War II".
The exhibition is subsequent to Foam Magazine #43, released in December 2015, on the theme ‘Freedom of Expression under Surveillance’. Ai Weiwei himself was the guest editor and the central point of this magazine issue.
Foam is supported by the BankGiro Loterij, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, City of Amsterdam, Delta Lloyd, Olympus and the VandenEnde Foundation.
Make your voice heard
Deflated lifeboats, discarded life vests, faces of hope and despair, makeshift cities and images of daily life. Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei visited Lesbos for the first time in December 2015, where he started to document his experiences on the incoming influx of refugees. As an artist, he feels the responsibility to create awareness by making his voice heard. In doing so, he shares a constant stream of images on his Instagram account. After Greece, Weiwei traveled to refugee camps around the Mediterranean, Africa and Western-Europe.
#SafePassage, currently on show in Foam, displays those countless images he took with his smartphone on an immense wallpaper, representing the scale of the crisis. Apart from the images, Weiwei puts the spotlight on a simple rubber lifebuoy of which many litter the shores of Lesbos. He reconstructed the lifebuoy in marble, reflecting on China’s imperial past. It also becomes symbolic of life and death; sometimes life-saving, yet also testament to the poor conditions and risks which the refugees on Lesbos have faced.