— O.M.

Ai Wei-Wei’s new installation serves as a stunning reminder to all of us.

The grand hall of the Prague Trade Palace has welcomed one of Ai Wei-Wei’s newest endeavours, as the National Gallery opens a new massive show featuring two hundred and fifty-eight human souls, set to sea, in search of a new home and in search of the meaning of humanity. Yet another work of the artist, focused on the current migration situation around the globe, as well as paying close attention to the human crisis of the 21st century in general. 

An enormous, seventy-meters long, inflatable boat is hung from the ceiling, with 258 souls on board, beneath which we can read a series of statements — words of many influential thinkers, contemporary as well as historic. Symbolically, the very quote belongs the the former Czech president Václav Havel and the very last to the Czech literary icon Franz Kafka, who wrote to Oskar Pollak in 1903: “We are as forlorn as children lost in the woods. When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the griefs that are in me and what do I know of yours?”. The installation’s connection with Czech history goes even deeper though — the Trade Palace was historically used as an assembly point for Jews being prepared for transport to the Terezín concentration camp, during the Nazi era between 1939 an 1941.

 

It is, without a doubt, a striking defence of the human values, which we so often tend to doubt. The middle section carries an inspiring quote from Socrates: “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.” — This very world has now become a hostile environment, strikingly individualistic and ignorant. Ai Wei-Wei’s monumental depiction of refuge brings this topic right to us. Indeed political, but also very human — “The Law of the Journey” is a needed reminder reflecting the values that the 21st century man has incredibly forgotten.
The size of the installation acts as a symbol itself — the scale of this topic is now so massive, that it simply cannot be ignored. It may also speak well about the ignorance itself — does the 21st century man truly need to have these topics so loudly amplified, in order to even notice and spend time evaluating?

Ai Wei-Wei’s installation is primarily not only about the refugee rights, but moreover about the rights of the human being to exist in this world — a principle that is vital in maintaining a functional & democratic society.
If only we could honour these principles — if that would be the case, there would perhaps be no migration crisis as such. Hence “The Law of the Journey”, a stunning reminder to the modern human mind.

Václav Havel’s quote, by the rear of the vessel, read:

“The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.”

 

0 comments
Submit comment