W 3 St btw LaGaurdia & Mercer
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 portrait depicts a refugee from the Kara Tepe Camp on Lesvos, Greece, which houses about 700 people typically from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan (as well as several from Palestine, Iran, Congo, Pakistan, Nepal, and Eritrea). Refugees usually arrive from Moria Camp in Lesvos, Greece where they are first received and processed. Kara Tepe Camp residents have generally sturdy homes, clean toilets, and some electricity. It was established in 2015 as a site for refugees to receive aid from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and stipends from Mercy Corps. Location: Kara Tepe Camp, Lesvos, Greece. Courtesy of the artist.