Due to contemporary artist Ai Weiwei’s popularity, I have been taken to his new exhibit “Law of the Journey” multiple times this semester. “Law of the Journey” opened in Prague’s National Gallery in early March. The exhibit’s center piece is an enormous black, rubber boat suspended in mid-air. The boat is crowded with hundreds of faceless human figures. Through this exhibit, Ai Weiwei is hoping to raise awareness for the European refugee crisis.
The effect of this boat is more menacing than anything else. The message is deeply problematic: it depicts refugees as large, dark, and frightening. Furthermore, Ai weiwei’s motives are questionable. The artist claims to be advocating for refugees, but his critics accuse him of exploiting the very people he says he wants to help. Surely the millions of dollars used to produce “Law of the Journey” could have helped refugees in a more direct and meaningful way. Even the exhibit’s many lifejackets feel like a waste, begging for better purpose from the gallery floor.