Ai Wei Wei: Documenting Political Structures

FOAM, Amsterdam, presents a new immersive exhibition by world-renowned Chinese artist and activist, Ai Weiwei (b. 1957). #SafePassage explores the daily struggles between the individual and the political structures that take hold of society, influenced by the artist’s experience of persistent government surveillance and the recent devastating events of refugees desperate to enter the EU.

Whilst under the invasive watch on a daily basis, Ai Weiwei sought to regain a sense of control. Beginning a series of aesthetic and ethical experiments, he livestreamed his life through webcams mounted within his studio that could be viewed internationally – later to be taken down by the same government that played voyeur to his every day.

Based upon the personal and intimate journeys Ai Weiwei was forced to take himself after these events, the show is a pressing and intrinsically human glance into a world where people feel they have to leave their homeland and risk their lives in order for a chance to start new ones in a safer environment.

Jarred by xenophobia and rigorous asylum procedures, migrants’ journeys become arduous and even deadly, and still remain the best option compared to the systems of their own native landscapes.

A champion for human rights and democracy, the artist seeks to overcome corruption and cover-ups, and has tirelessly married his artistic practice with his political intentions. In this new show, works tell the narrative of his personal entrapment and considering the self-surveillance now present in contemporary Selfie culture – a project he continues day to day on his Instagram account.

For the second part of the exhibition, FOAM’s space will be covered in thousands of photographs taken on the same mobile phone, tracking candid and honest portrayals through the living conditions of refugee camps including a selection of video works amongst which: Chang’an Boulevard (2004), which documents the road that dissects Beijing in half on its east-west axis, and On the Boat (2016), in which we see the artist on an abandoned boat in the middle of the ocean.

#SafePassage runs from 16 September until 7 December. Find out more about the exhibition:

Ai Weiwei’s Instagram: @aiww

1. Ideomeni Camp Greece, (12 March 2016). Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio. 
2. Incoming Refugee Boat, Lesbos Greece, (17 February 2016). Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio.
3. Qalandi Checkpoint Jerusalem (14 May 2016). Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio.
4. SafePassage Facebook. Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Camps.
5. Selfie with just landed refugee on the beach of Lesbos, Greece. (26 January, 2016). Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio.