The project titled “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” involves more than 300 site-specific installations in locations including Central Park, Washington Square Park and others. Although these installations will vary in size and discreteness, they will all address human rights issues and will explore themes of immigration, injustice and division.
By adapting security fencing to a myriad of locations, Ai Weiwei will be able to convey his message on segregation and division anywhere you look — from the streets, in between buildings and emerging from rooftops.
Ai Weiwei has turned his attention to the U.S.-Mexico border wall proposed by President Donald Trump for the inspiration of these installations, but even before this, Ai Weiwei has been renowned for his political activism and social commentary on issues occurring throughout the world.
The issue with the migration crisis has been a longtime focus of my practice. And the fence has always been a tool in the vocabulary of political landscaping.
Most recently, Ai Weiwei has addressed the refugee crisis in Europe through his art, including a floating installation of life jackets in Vienna, in which he arranged 1,005 life jackets from refugees into the shape of lotus flowers, also wrapping the columns of the Berlin concert hall with 14,000 life jackets.
Ai Weiwei has been discussing installations in New York City with the Public Art Fund for years, but from 2011-2015, his passport was confiscated, and he was detained by Chinese authorities for his vocal political activism and criticism of the Chinese government, leaving his plans on hold until now.
What’s important to remember is that while barriers have been used to divide us, as humans we are all the same. Some are more privileged than others, but with that privilege comes responsibility to do more.
Ai Weiwei has visited and volunteered at the world’s most vulnerable populations at refugee camps and borders worldwide. He has visited with refugees fleeing the war in Syria, has organized a Walk of Compassion in London in their honor and has used his art as a tool to educate others and bring attention to injustice.
Ai Weiwei has been a ceaseless and uncensored voice for the voiceless his whole life, melding art and activism into one by showcasing raw displacement through his exhibitions.