Dissident dissonance

Investigation by Éric Mangion


On January 1, 2016, Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei announced his intention to create a memorial on the Greek island of Lesbos in honor of refugees crossing the Mediterranean. “A lot of people have lost their lives under the waves […] we need a memorial,” he told during a press conference. A few weeks later, a photo taken by Indian Today reporter Rohit Chawla floods the media and online social networks. It shows the body of Ai Weiwei lying on his stomach, facing the sea on that very island of Lesbos. The image refers to Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian child whose lifeless body was found washed ashore on a Turkish beach on September 2, and whose death elicited an outpouring of emotion worldwide. Yet Ai Weiwei’s photo disturbs in that elicits no compassion whatsoever. Nothing works in this heavy and indecent staging of Kurdi’s drama, delimiting the often-ambiguous process of an artist who embraces like no other the complexities of his country.

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