Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s refugee statement: 1,005 life jackets floating in Vienna palace pond

The dissident artist’s latest installation in Austrian capital, addressing the tragedy of Europe’s refugee crisis, consists of 201 rings each holding five life jackets and floating like lotus flowers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 July, 2016, 11:23am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 July, 2016, 11:23am

Visitors to Vienna’s Belvedere Palace have been confronted with 1,005 refugees’ life jackets drifting in the baroque pond – courtesy of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

The installation, entitled F. Lotus, consists of 201 rings each holding five life jackets – retrieved from the Greek island of Lesbos – arranged in the letter “F” and floating like lotus flowers.

Ai, who in February this year attached 14,000 life jackets to the columns of a Berlin concert house, said the work was his way of addressing the tragedy of Europe’s migrant crisis.

“There are more than 500,000 life jackets left on [Lesbos] and it looks like a landscape,” he told reporters. “It is something so related to individuals. It could be the last thing you grab when you have to escape.”

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to create refugee memorial on Lesbos, Greece

The artist went too far for some earlier this year when he recreated the death pose of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler found dead on a Turkish beach in 2015, in a photo shoot for an Indian magazine.

China’s most prominent contemporary artist helped design the Bird’s Nest stadium for the Beijing Olympics, but his works have often fallen foul of China’s authorities. In 2011, he was detained for 81 days.