The installation titled “Law of the Journey” is a 70-metre-long inflatable boat with 258 refugees aboard.

Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei is known for a series of works raising problems of corruptions, state surveillance and censorship. His latest works are devoted to the European refugee crisis. The topic is also reflected in his biggest installation displayed at the National Gallery in Prague. The installation titled “Law of the Journey” slams shameful politicians who ignore millions of people escaping war.

The artist displays a 70-metre-long sculpture of an inflatable boat filled with 258 huge figures symbolising people who take a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea in an attempt to save their lives. According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 1.2 million people got to Europe in such a way in 2015. Many of them died en route to Europe.

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The opening of the installation in Prague is symbolic, as the Czech Republic is one of the EU countries that rejected the EU’s plan to help Muslim refugees. The country has accepted only 12 refugees during the refugee crisis.

“I think this is very, very shameful behaviour. My message is very clear: being a politician or a political group, you cannot be so short-sighted, you cannot have no vision, you cannot sacrifice human dignity and human rights for political gain,” Ai Weiwei commented on his new work.

He said the installation had been made in a Chinese factory that produces dinghies used by actual refugees. Ai Weiwei spent a lot of time in refugee camps and centres in Greece, Macedonia, on the Syrian-Turkish border and the US-Mexican border.

Ai Weiwei actively uses the refugee crisis theme in his recent works. He made a performance, posing like drowned child refugee Alan Kurdi, made a room full of celebrities take selfies in emergency blankets, closed his exhibition in Denmark, protesting against the controversial migration law, and made an 11-kilometre walk that symbolised the exodus of refugees from the Middle East. An exhibition titled “Refugees” opened in Australia last year to show works by artists with a refugee background, among them Ai Weiwei. The artist shot more than 600 hours of footage during his visits to refugee camps in Greece and Macedonia and plans to release a documentary this year.

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