When I was living in Hong Kong, I was introduced to the work of Ai Wei Wei, an artist, political activist and general rabble rouser who pushes back against authority and the status quo.
He’s from China, where pushing back against authority is not generally encouraged. While I was in Hong Kong, there were campaigns in support of him as he had been detained by the government. Since then, he has done many exhibits around the world that deal with controversial topics. Some of these topics include mass migrations, deaths from earthquakes, labor issues, and more. I was fortunate enough to see one of his expositions in Buenos Aires where he highlighted issues of corruption and problems that arise when governments aren’t responsive to the people.
Why do I feel inspired by Ai Wei Wei?
He is definitely a controversial figure, and I am inspired by, and admire, his willingness to speak up, reach out, and shine a light on topics that others are afraid to touch. I’m impressed by his ability to create visual and visceral impacts about the topics he chooses to highlight.
One of my favorite examples of this is his display of 14,000 life jackets collected from refugees who had landed in Lesbos. He had them wrapped around columns of the Konzerthaus in Berlin so that people could really see and personalize the issue.