Ai At The Cycladic
In recent times the Cycladic Museum of Arts in Athens is sporting three different flags that are flying high on it – the Greek Flag, a flag of the European Union and the third that has on it the outline of the three year old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi who did not survive to reach the safer shores like some of the fortunate refugees.
These three flags are made in the silver and gold colored satin, which is quite like the thermal blankets that are provided to the refugees and are a work of art. The artist who has created this simple yet hard hitting installation is Ai Weiwei who on the 19th of this month opened her first exhibition in Greece at the Cycladic Museum. The artist is known for the controversy and global outcry he evoked when, for India Today he posed as Aylan Kurdi. When confronted, Ai merely mentioned that there is no point in sentimentalizing the crisis where more than 2000 children have already lost their lives in an effort to reach Europe, in face of something as big as this, a moral judgement forbidding the representation of the crisis with Aylan Kurdi is redundant.
The colors gold, and silver are the ones that the children see first as they reach the shores of Lesbos, a Greek island as the volunteers here wrap them up in these blankets. Ai talks of the imagery these wrapped up children conjure, the winds making the blankets flow and the children looking like angels.
Since his first visit to Lesbos during the Christmas of 2015, Ai has dedicated his life to help the refugees there. Ai has also moved his studio to the island. In a serious effort to bring to attention the humanitarian crisis Ai has created new works that form half of his exhibition at the Cycladic Museum to it.
Ai has compared his first visit to Lesbos as being dropped into a deep, dark hole. While driving by the water, he saw a half sunken, empty boat. Getting out of the car, Ai went on to sit in the boat, meditated and tried to understand the significance of it all, even as he floated out into the ocean. He claims this moment to be the one when he decided to move his studio to the island.
The exhibition Ai at Cycladic which is going to run till the 30th of October and include many more works of art that talk about or invoke emotions about the refugee crisis. Some of such works are iPhone Wallpaper (2016), a collage of a total of 12,030 photographs clicked by Ai on his smartphone from January 2015 until as late as April 2016 and the Lesvos Photographs which is a succession of some 600 photos taken by the members of Photographic Society of Mytilene. This photo series is described by Michael Frahm, the curator of the exhibition as a brilliant effort to give a human face to the crisis. As a part of this exhibition, three short films have been shot anew in and around the waters of Lesbos.
Apart from this Ai has also created some special works in marble for the exhibition. Tyre is one such exquisite piece for which marble sourced from China has been brought in. The work consists of rubber lifebuoy rings are hewn in black and white marble. This particular marble is very similar to the ones found in the Ding province and was used in creating Buddhist statues.
More of Ai’s work has been installed alongside the existing collections in the museum. For example the Tear Bottle/Tear Gas Canister is a sensitive juxtaposition of tear gas cans with ancient Greek vessels that were used to collect the tears of the mourners. These tear gas canisters were used on the refugees in Idomeni camp.
Ai claims that the show is about “this time and this location”. The intent of the exhibition is to bring to light and raise awareness about the struggles of the refugees, about the need to protect humanity and fight the endless fight.
To add to it all there is a cherry on top of this eclectic cake, where ten percent of the total proceeds would be donated to Médecins Sans Frontières and the Greek NGO METAdrasi.