Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei is conveying his feelings about Denmark’s new (anti-) immigration bill by removing his work from two Danish museums in protest.
Following the Danish Parliament’s passing of the law allowing authorities to seize valuables from migrants, Ai took to social media to drag Denmark’s “shameless” government and announce his art strike.
— 艾未未 Ai Weiwei (@aiww) January 27, 2016
Ai is demanding his work be pulled from both the Aros Aarhus Art Museum and Copenhagen’s Faurschou Foundation, where it’s been displayed in exhibitions “A New Dynasty — Created in China” (the 2015 Yu Yi installation) and “Ruptures” respectively.
As well as permitting authorities to snatch items worth more than 10,000 kroner ($1500) off migrants, the bill in question extends the compulsory waiting period for family of refugees to enter Denmark, from 1 to now 3 years.
The legislation was approved on Tuesday against protests of human rights organizations. “Basically it’s an insult to human dignity to have that kind of policy,” Ai summed up.
Here are Ai’s feelings about the Danish government, and the world in general, at length:
I have had a lot of criticism from Danish people. But I am not pointing the finger at them, other countries have disgusting policies too.
I made a statement that our very established society cannot make exceptions, but instead lowers our standards of human rights and gives unfortunate people no support, morally or financially. It is a very bad judgment.
They come to this land with very little help; they just want basic human dignity, no bombs, no fear. They sacrifice everything to come to a land where nobody understands them and they call them potential criminals. It makes me very angry.
I am pointing at all those governments who are not really facing up to this humanitarian crisis. And are not solving the problem, how to end this tragedy. It has not ended, it still continues. No nation can separate themselves.
In light of the bill being passed, Ai personally wrote to the Aros museum about his decision:
I am very shocked about yesterday’s news that the Danish government has decided to seize refugees’ private property. As a result of this regrettable decision, I must withdraw from your exhibition ‘A New Dynasty. Created In China’ to express my protest of the Danish governments’ decision. Please accept my regrets and thank you for your long-term support. I apologize for the inconvenience caused.
But museum director Erlend Hoeyersten didn’t take it well, apparently, replying that though he has “great respect” for Ai’s principles, “I also find it unreasonable that an entire people is punished for the government’s policies.”
In response, Ai offered some low-key sass: “As an artist this is the only thing I can do. If he feels punished that’s too bad.”
Meanwhile, the Faurschou Foundation proved more cooperative, according to an update on Ai’s Instagram:
Jens Faurschou backs the artist’s decision and regrets that the Danish parliament choses to be in the forefront of symbolic and inhuman politics of todays biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe and the Middle East, instead of being in the forefront of a respectful European solution to solve the acute humanitarian crisis.
Faurschou himself put in a word about Ai:
He had been watching the news during the night and wanted to react. I didn’t try to dissuade him. This is not so much about which country does more or less for refugees, it is the symbolic importance of the new law. This [kind of thing] is spreading over Europe, and we in Denmark are taking the lead in this by making this law.
From Ai Weiwei’s side, the important thing is to get a debate and to use his voice. He is becoming a European; he is taking part in what goes on here. He did that in China.
People would say he has no influence, but when he focused on the scandal of the earthquake in 2008, today China is doing something about corruption. He has a voice and he uses it. I really admire him for that.
A resident of Berlin, Ai is currently documenting the migrant crisis on the Greek island of Lesbos, which sees transit from many a refugee on their travel across the Aegean sea to Europe:
My moments with refugees in the past months have been intense. I see thousands come daily, children, babies, pregnant women, old ladies, a young boy with one arm.
They come with nothing, barefoot, in such cold, they have to walk across the rocky beach. Then you have this news; it made me feel very angry.
The way I can protest is that I can withdraw my works from that country. It is very simple, very symbolic – I cannot co-exist, I cannot stand in front of these people, and see these policies. It is a personal act, very simple; an artist trying not just to watch events but to act, and I made this decision spontaneously.