Chinese Artist Ai Wei Wei drew criticism from the internet after releasing an image of him posing on a Greek beach as the drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi.
Wei Wei has made headlines again, this time for asking dozens of socialites to pose in selfies wearing refugees’ emergency foil blankets during a benefit dinner.
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Wei Wei posted several pictures to Instagram of the people draped in the shiny, golden blankets during the Berlin International Film Festival’s Cinema for Peace fundraiser at the Berlin Konzerthaus Monday night.
Wei Wei debuted his newest art installation outside of the venue which included 14,000 life jackets worn by refugees during their journey to Europe draped on the building’s columns.
The stunt has garnered some negative attention because rather than display an act of solidarity, the images seem to make light of the very serious refugee crisis — especially as some of the photos show people smiling and making funny faces while wearing the blankets.
The blankets are used to warm the men, women and children who arrive on the Greek coast soaking wet from traveling by sea; they’re not a flashy accessory to show off during elaborate dinner parties.
Syrian refugee & baby wrapped in thermal blankets moments after arriving at Lesbos on an overcrowded dinghy - Reuters pic.twitter.com/mRMKuAehLy— Jade (@Jade_Lennon) September 30, 2015
Tim Renner, Berlin’s Culture Senator, was in attendance at the dinner but did not approve of the blanket selfie move. Renner said in a Facebook post, translated from German, that asking guests to pose for photos wearing the blankets was “clearly something obscene.”
More than 1 million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe in 2015, and more than 82,000 have arrived so far in 2016, according to UN Refugee Agency UNHCR. In six short weeks, 400 people have drowned while attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing by boat.
None of those jarring statistics sounds like a cause to take a happy-go-lucky selfie.
It is possible that Wei Wei’s intentions were to showcase how nonchalant and removed most people are from the Syrian War and subsequent refugee crisis, thus holding a mirror to our hypocrisy. An explanation such as this would be among very few acceptable reasons for the seemingly insensitive act.
Banner Photo Credit: Facebook/Instagram