Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

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Elton Ave btw E 161 St & Brook Ave

Ai Weiwei’s citywide exhibition uses existing elements of urban infrastructure as platforms for public art. Lamppost banners display a series of 200 portraits of immigrants and refugees. Unlike typical printed advertisements, the artist created unique double-sided banner portraits by cutting black vinyl to make images appear in the portions that remain. Their play of positive and negative space is analogous to the often-ambiguous status of refugees and migrants. The series encompasses many groups by spanning several periods and locales. It includes historic images from Ellis Island, photographs of notable refugees, formal portraits by Ai Weiwei’s studio from the Shariya camp in Iraq, and the artist’s cell phone photographs taken at refugee camps and national borders around the world. The banners portray people from varied backgrounds, yet each is presented in a consistent format, emphasizing their shared humanity.

This banner depicts His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (b. 1935, Taktser, Amdo, Tibet), the Nobel Peace Prize winning spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhist people, who was forced to flee Tibet in 1959 after the Tibetan Uprising against the People’s Republic of China. He sought refuge in India, where he established the Government of Tibet in Exile, and has been forced to remain in exile since.

Photographer: Pete Souza, Date: 2014, Copyright: Public Domain, White House

Courtesy of the artist.

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