Meeting Ai Weiwei


When we came to Lesvos, Greece to photograph and film refugees landing on the shore, the last thing we expected was to meet Ai Weiwei. Turns out he was there doing the same thing. Only on his iPhone.

I asked him in Chinese, "Are you Ai Weiwei?" He replied in English, "Yes. Who are you?" We explained that we were filmmakers from New York. Once we got to talking, he revealed that he'd set up a studio on Lesvos in December and was in the process of making a documentary as well. 

He had a few assistants helping him. They collected some of the discarded fake life jackets and operated this drone camera. He eventually used 14,000 recovered life jackets to create an installation around the columns of Berlin's Konzerthaus

In an interview with CNN, Ai revealed just how much witnessing the plight of the refugees coming to Europe has affected him. He explained that he's not quite sure what form his art on this subject will take: "I feel like I kind of get lost. I feel my intention, my instinct, my reactions, are not really so much associated with my experience with art in politics. It really has led me to an unknown area. I grew up in difficulty, and many experiences can be compared or the same, but still I cannot connect with those people who risk their lives going through the path of refugees to Europe. And then you see all those politicians that are not really helping, and trying to find all kind of excuses. To refuse and to even put these refugees in more tragic situations. When they get off the boats, men and women have tears in their eyesthey think they have made it. Volunteers come from everywhere and hand them a cup of tea, or a piece of chocolate. This small thing can make a kid happy. But Europe is not much more than a blanket, and a little piece of chocolate.”