Ai WeiWei’s “Laundromat” Exhibition Makes You Stop To Think About The Syrian Refugee Crisis
Ai WeiWei, the highly respects and, as far as China is concerned, the highly controversial artist has recently launched what could very well be his most astonishing exhibition yet. The concept is surprisingly simple, but the execution and the cause is what will make you stop for a moment to think. To put it simple, WeiWei has taken approximately 15000 pieces of clothing – from outerwear to basics to shoes – from men, women and children that was collected from the informal refugee camp in Idomeni, a small village in northern Greece, which officially borders into the Republic of Macedonia. The garments, which have all been meticulously hung on racks throughout the exhibition space held in New York City’s Deitch Projects gallery, serve to highlight, nay, emphasize the state in which the refugees were living in. Fleeing from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, many had to live through dire and horrible conditions with scarce food and water, with nothing more than the clothes seen throughout the exhibition as a form of shelter.
This is a condition many people refuse to see, or try to distort or ignore. Many willfully believe this isn’t actually taking place. When you see so many children out of school, 263 million children worldwide, you can easily predict what our future holds.
While the notion may appear easy to simply drop in on Idomeni and grab what you can for an art exhibition, Ai WeiWei is much more than that. Instead, the artists followed the refugee path to experience the same harsh conditions the refugees underwent. “I decided to follow the refugees’ path. I went to the Idomeni refugee camp. It had become a bottleneck when the flow of refugees entering Europe was completely shut off. Before, the refugees would travel through Idomeni on the so-called Balkan route to reach Europe. Once the Macedonian government closed the border, the camp swelled to over 15,000 refugees” he tells designboom. “I started to take many photographs, to try to record the moment. The harsh reality can act as evidence and make us reflect on these conditions. This is a condition many people refuse to see, or try to distort or ignore. Many willfully believe this isn’t actually taking place. When you see so many children out of school, 263 million children worldwide, you can easily predict what our future holds” he adds to comment on the reality of the situation.
What’s interesting still is how Ai WeiWei came to the exhibition’s title: Laundromat. “Once the refugees were forced to evacuate to different camps from Idomeni, many of those possessions were left behind. Trucks came in and loaded these items up to take towards the landfill. I decided to see if we could buy or collect them so they would not be destroyed. With a truckload of those materials, including thousands of blankets, clothes and shoes, all impossibly dirty, we transported them to my studio in berlin. there, we carefully washed the clothes and shoes, piece by piece. each article of clothing was washed, dried, ironed, and then recorded. our work was the same as that of a laundromat.” If you’re in the area, we urge you to check it out during its run time which ends on December 23, and the Deitch Projects gallery can be found on 76 Grand St. New York, NY 10013.