N 7 St btw Driggs & Roebling
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 West Bank of Palestine, which is home to nearly 775,000 registered refugees, around a quarter of whom live in 19 camps. Qalandiya Checkpoint has become notorious as the main crossing for Palestinians who need to cross between the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, whether for work, education, medical services, or personal reasons. Approximately 26,000 Palestinians pass through Qalandiya daily, on foot, by car, or by bus, according to Israeli authorities. This comprises a third of all movements of Palestinians in and out of the West Bank each day.
Ai and his team’s extensive research and visits to refugee camps and national borders around the world have yielded an enormous trove of compelling documentation. Much of this is produced by the artist’s nearly constant use of his cell phone to spontaneously photograph the people and scenes around him.
Location: Qalandiya Checkpoint, West Bank.
Courtesy of the artist.