Ai Weiwei creates F Lotus installation from refugee life jackets

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Ai Weiwei creates lotus-like installation from refugee life jackets

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has arranged 1,005 life jackets from refugees into the shape of lotus flowers for a floating installation in Vienna (+ slideshow).

F Lotus by Ai Weiwei

Entitled F Lotus, the installation features 201 rings – each with five life jackets worn by Syrian refugees – arranged into the shape of the letter F.

F Lotus by Ai Weiwei

Each of the rings has either red, orange or blue life jackets and floats like a lotus blossom on the pond at the park of the Upper Belvedere, part of the Belvedere museum in Vienna.

Ai Weiwei created the installation as part of his continued campaign to raise awareness of the Syrian refugee crisis.

F Lotus by Ai Weiwei

The artist set up a studio on the Greek island of Lesbos to highlight the plight of refugees and has produced a series of projects with themes related to the refugee crisis.

Examples include wrapping the columns of the Berlin concert hall with 14,000 life jackets and posing as drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi.

F Lotus by Ai Weiwei

"This work is based on Ai Weiwei's intense engagement with the plight of the refugees," said Agnes Husslein-Arco, director of the Belvedere and 21er Haus, which is presenting the installation.

"The life vests draw attention to the uncertain fate of the refugees who wore them, the lotus flower symbolises purity and longevity, and the F is a reoccurring and provocative motif in Ai's oeuvre."

A video showing Ai Weiwei's F Lotus installation

F Lotus forms the centrepiece to Ai Weiwei's first major solo exhibition in Austria, Translocation – Transformation, which is spread across locations in and around the Belvedere museum.

F Lotus by Ai Weiwei

The exhibition focuses on themes of "metamorphosis provoked by expulsion, migration and deliberate change of location that is undergone by people and objects alike".

F Lotus by Ai Weiwei

Other installations include a Ming Dynasty temple made from 1,300 wooden pieces installed in the exhibition hall of contemporary art museum 21er Haus, and three mythological characters – created using traditional Chinese kite-making techniques – floating on the staircase of the Upper Belvedere.

F Lotus by Ai Weiwei

Translocation – Transformation opened on 14 July 2016 and will remain on show until 20 November 2016.

Ai's previous projects include the 2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion with Herzog & de Meuron and an installation of 100 million handmade replica sunflower seeds at London's Tate Modern.