Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

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E 7 St & 2nd 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 Emma Goldman (1869-1940, b. Kaunas, Lithuania), the anarchist and feminist political activist, who immigrated to America from Russia in 1885, but was arrested for her outspoken criticism of the US military draft and later deported back to Russia. While there, she grew increasingly critical of the Soviet Union and eventually left to live in England, Canada, and France.

Photographer: Bain News Service, Publisher; Mug Shot, Date: 1901, Copyright: Public Domain

Courtesy of the artist.

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