Sunday, November 6, 2016


"Laundromat" by Ai Weiwei at Deitch Projects (@jeffreydeitch)

It was a Trail of Tears that displaced Native Americans in the 1800s and a sea of shoes that now represent the refugee crisis perpetuating on Greece's borders today. In a landmark showing at Deitch Projects, Ai WeiWei uses fashion as a focal point to further the message of displaced refugees. One of 4 Ai Weiwei exhibits simultaneously opening November 5th, Laundromat showcases 2,046 abandoned clothes and shoes left by moving migrants. Keep reading for more...  

 Instagram images of AiWeiwei visiting refugee camps

Drawing from a history where his father, Chinese poet Ai Qung, had spent decades in labor camps, Ai Weiwei felt compelled to share the refugee reality. Laundromat showcases a maze of rolling racks laden with clothing salvaged by Weiwei's team and flown to his Berlin studio. Each piece has been methodically cleaned, ironed, categorized, sorted and separated. The salvaged styles are arranged by size, surrounded by walls of instagram images and sit atop a lexan floor printed with news feeds proselytizing the global refugee situation. Content is culled from a sampling of messages from a refugee group on WhatsApp. Eerily effervescent, visitors are circumstantially surrounded by the "presence" of these impacted people upon entry.

3 layers of communication

A "cultural arbiter" and activist, Weiwei visualizes social change through artistic expression. Translating complex concepts of contemporary society into works of art, Weiwei's popularity remains politically polar. Following imprisonment in 2011, Weiwei continues his artistic activism despite travel restrictions, contributing to projects beyond the Great Wall via social media. Weiwei started Laundromat with the help of 2 assistants, who surveyed and documented the plight of 100+ refugees at Idomeni, a camp located on the border of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Since his passport was returned in 2015, Weiwei has visited over 20 camps across Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

Parade of shoes; Jeffrey Deitch addresses an intimate audience on opening day

"Most of the one million refugees arriving in the European Union in 2015 passed through Idomeni on the refugee trail.... Women, men, girls, boys, elderly, disabled, single parents, unaccompanied children, individuals and families fleeing war and human rights abuses routinely endured police brutality and border closures, bitter cold and torrential rain, scarce food and deplorable sanitation, poor access to heath services, abusive smugglers and people traffickers, all in a desperate bid to seek asylum in German, Sweden, and a handful of other EU countries."
- Intro Panel to the Exhibit

Big and Small

"I cannot give them food or tea, or money, but rather I can let their voices be heard and recognized. I can give them a platform to be acknowledged, to testify that they are human beings. During the saddest moments in our history, mankind has had to prove their worth as humans to their own kind.... As an artist, this is something I would like to take on."
--Ai Wei Wei [source]

 Links and prints on Lexan

With an opening on November 5th, Ai Weiwei: Laundromat will run until December 23rd at Deitch Projects. Both the Fifth Ave and Chelsea locations of Mary Boone Gallery and Lisson New York present Ai Weiwei 2016: Roots and Branches. Each exhibition virtualizes ideas of displacement and uprootedness through inspired iconography.

 Like a maze

Furthering the focus on refugees through fashion

 Installation view

Methodically sized, categorically arranged

Clothes drying after being cleaned at Ai Weiwei's Berlin studio

Exhibition entryway

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