BY: SHAWNTAE HARRIS
Millions of New Yorkers are scared for their fate as they wait for the verdict of the new immigration policy. As the new president and federal government go head to head, a division lies between immigrants and citizens. Ai Weiwei will put up fences around the city to shed the light on the country’s division.
“The fence has always been a tool in the vocabulary of political landscaping, and evokes associations with words like ‘border,’ ‘security,’ and ‘neighbour,’ which are connected to the current global political environment,” said Weiwei to ARTFIXdaily.
This October, the Public Art Fund presents Good Fences Make Good Neighbours as a celebration of the 40th anniversary. The art will be found across the many New York boroughs. The metal wire designs will be in the most unexpected places like buildings, bus shelters and existing sculptures. The structures will have an uninterrupted persona, blending with the environment around it.
“But, what’s important to remember is that while barriers have been used to divide us, as humans we are all the same. Some are more privileged than others, but with that privilege comes a responsibility to do more,” said Weiwei.
Good Fences Make Good Neighbours comes from a poem by Robert Frost. Meaning, the walls that are built cannot separate us from being neighbours. And, neighbours respect each other so much that they will even respect the fences that separate them.
Weiwei has always challenged politics from a young age. At the age of 10, his father was exiled to a labour camp in the middle of the Gobi Desert. His father, also an artist, was forced to clean toilets. His father was a respected man, but after a political mishap he lost everything. Since then Weiwei has not been shy to battle with the government. Brave enough to capture photos of himself flipping off famous monuments, which he called a rebellion against the government that disrespects its citizens and takes away their freedom.
This is not the first time Weiwei is mixing politics with art. Last year he had an exhibit called Greek Island of Lesbo. Greece is a place where many refugees go to escape the corruption of their home countries. “As an artist, I have to relate to humanity’s struggles … I never separate these situations from my art,” Weiwei said to the Guardian.
The Trump administration threatens sanctuary cities
This art exhibit arrives on the heels of New York’s political issues. New York city is a sanctuary city meaning an illegal immigrant can stay there to avoid deportation. However, President Trump wants to take that away since the federal government is not complying with their rules. So, they are planning to strip funding for sanctuary.
Now, the challenge lies with defining what a sanctuary city is. New York has nearly 4.4 million immigrants, second only to California.
Ai Weiwei designs will be shown throughout New York City during October 12th, 2017 to February 11th, 2018.