Ai Weiwei Covers Berlin's Konzerthaus In Refugee Life Jackets

Ai Weiweis installation
Ai Weiwei's installation | © Ai Weiwei / @aiww - Instagram
Brienne Pierce

Ai Weiwei is infamous for letting his actions speak louder than his words, which seems fitting for his position as a contemporary artist and activist. Known for being unapologetic and outspoken, Ai Weiwei’s undisguised and masterful provocations aren’t always appreciated by his contemporaries: he was once held in Bejing for 81 days under the charge ‘economic crime,’ reminiscent of something out of a Nabokov novel. Regardless of his sometimes unappreciated reception, Ai Weiwei remains a paramount iconoclast who infuses his incendiary art with irrefutable politics. His exhibitions often rattle the very core of people’s insights and implore us to evaluate societal pitfalls, relationships, and impacts with more awareness. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Ai Weiwei talks about art and humanism.”I am not born an artist, I am born a human. I care about human conditions rather than the opinions. I have no choice.” It’s no wonder this incredible human has has been driven to dissect the refugee crisis with his art.

Ai Weiwei’s installation

This isn’t the first time Ai Weiwei has curated an installation in the face of the refugee crisis. In January, he posed as the dead infant washed up on the shore in Greece, Alan Kurdi, in an attempt to recreate the now legendary photo that sent shockwaves all across the world. He also recently cancelled his show scheduled to be in Copenhagen after they released their controversial policies about seizing asylum seekers’ valuables and postponing families’ reintegrations.

This time Ai Weiwei has collected over 14,000 life jackets and has tied them together, draping them up and down the columns of the Berlin Konzerthaus. The jackets are coming from Lesbos or Lesvos, a Greek island that acts as a middle point for those Syrian refugees fleeing from their homeland on their way to Europe. The island was first made popular by its abundance in the Homeric epics. Now it has become the middle ground in a desperate plight to jump ship, acting as both a beacon of hope and a symbol of precariousness.

These life jackets demonstrate the amount of lives that are being risked to find peace; so many lives have been lost in an attempt to reach safe ground. Ai Weiwei showcases his inexorable belief in human rights through his installation. The orange vests, which he received from the Lesbos authorities. stand brightly in the center of Berlin. It only took one night for his installation fully to take shape. 14,000 life jackets are now covering the pillars of this concert house. The timing overlaps that of the Berlinale, perhaps to insinuate it’s not the time to become insular with our attention. Even when people try to distance themselves from the world’s problems, it becomes clear that it’s not as far away as we think. The problems of the world cannot be ignored and Ai Weiwei is hellbent on making sure we won’t.

Ai Weiwei’s installation in Berlin
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article