Thousands of orange life vests covered the columns turning them into pillars for the refugees that are arriving every day on the Greek island of Lesbos. The installation is a part of Cinema for Peace, a fundraiser gala event that happened on February 15, 2016.
The goal of this art piece is to draw attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis happening. To bring something real to the people at the fundraiser, Ai Weiwei collected and brought to Berlin more than 10,000 orange vests that were carefully attached and to the columns at Gendarmenmarkt.
#safepassage with Ai Weiwei
Over the last month, Ai Weiwei has been working from the Greek island of Lesbos. This island is where thousands of refugees land after escaping conflict. For most of them, the island is a sigh of relief but we believe the artist see this in a different way.
He has been registering what he sees there and posting videos and pictures on his Instagram account. This way he is offering a precedent account of the daily struggle and conditions of the community that is arriving on the island.
When I visited the square two days after the fundraiser, I could still see the orange vests covering the pillars of the Konzerthaus. While I took the pictures that you can see here, I kept imagining that every single one of the orange vests in front of me reflects the life of a man, woman or child that landed in Lesbos trying to escape death.
Every day you read about the refugees coming to Europe, looking for a safer place. But it is not easy to picture how many of them are arriving here and the sacrifices that they have to do to reach safety.
Too bad this artwork from Ai Weiwei only lasted at Gendarmenmarkt for a few days. Today the columns went back to their original designs and only the pictures from it will remain. The pictures and the message from the artist.