Propagandistic artwork are reflections of ideologies in the society of its time. Through conceptual art, artists arise from the censored society and cultivate their artistic inspirations from ongoing events. These artists aim to raise awareness of the flaws in both politics and government.
Ai Wei Wei is one of the most prolific activist artists in recent times, whose creations responds to the society, government and politics. Very recently, Ai created a 230 feet long inflatable artwork titled the Law of the Journey, currently exhibiting at the Prague National Gallery. It aims to provide a social commentary on the European refugee crisis, in which refugees suffering from poverty are fleeing to Europe but are denied access to entry.
The installation is one of Ai’s largest artworks, encompassing numerous human figures in a variation of positions — standing, crouching, sitting, and more. They are all placed on a large boat, which seems to imitate the unbearable modes of transport that refugees must tolerate to escape their country. It is inclusive of many demographics as we see young children, the elderly, and adults. All the human forms were created using a plastic, inflatable balloon-like material.
While one’s first impression of the Law of the Journey is its overwhelming aesthetics, Ai’s initial vision for this installation is very much sentimental. This contemplative yet barbed installation possesses an existential theme that emphasizes the loss of individuality in a crowd of so many individuals. All too similar, it criticises the indifference of countries denying access to refugees. The lack of facial features, clothing or any other means of individualization on the figures, physically assimilates all the human forms and deprives them of personality or emotion. Perhaps this serves to comment on the neglecting and objectification of refugees. Evidently, Ai is making a direct condemnation on the Czech Republic that recently denied access to refugees from Greece and Italy.
Through Law of the Journey, Ai promotes a empowering notion that encourages audiences to have more compassion and trust for each other because humanity should be unified, and seen as one. His installation reminds viewers that this is not only a refugee crisis, but is also a universal issue dealing with moral degradation and the lost of fundamental values. In a desperate attempt to prevent humanity from manifesting an even bigger crisis, Ai prompts us not forget those who have been neglected.
It is apparent that the installation successfully reflects the urgent issues in the world, regarding politics, economics, and moral decay. Through his artwork, Ai creates an intimate dialogue with individuals (both the victims and the bystanders), and translates the sufferings of victims into an artistic form to be interpreted by contemporary audiences. Authorities are certainly enduring the opinionated view of conceptual artists. Nonetheless, they are keeping an eye out. For the possibilities of a new revolution, which may seed from the art community, who hold such power to demonstrate evocatively.
Many thanks to Design Boom and Prague National Gallery for press materials.”References”