Ai Weiwei remembers Alan Kurdi on Lesbos

Tribute to a picture that went around the world: Chinese artist Ai Weiwei posed on Lesbos in the same position as the drowned refugee boy Alan Kurdi was found in when his body washed up on the beach of Bodrum last autumn. Commentators defend the artist's action.

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Libération (FR) /

Further proof of Europe's incompetence

The centre-left daily Libération looks into why the photo of Ai Weiwei lying on a beach in imitation of little Alan has triggered such widespread discomfort:

“Perhaps because deep down we wonder why a single scene must be recreated while so many others exist in real life. In the same weekend 37 people, among them many women and children, drowned in the Aegean Sea while trying to reach Lesbos. The photos of this drama are just as vivid as others which have already moved us to tears. ... All of these photos should be enough to mobilise the masses. Our unease when faced with Ai Weiwei's artistic composition shows that this is not the case. That we are not looking this reality in the face although the proof of this unprecedented drama is right there for all to see. This is the proof of our indifference, and our inability to respond to this distress whose phantom in the form of the little silhouette washed up on the edge of the beach will haunt us for a long time to come.”

Le Temps (CH) /

True engagement, no opportunism

Ai Weiwei is genuinely concerned about the fate of the refugees, the liberal daily Le Temps believes:

“Is Ai Weiwei an opportunist? It would be unfair to cast doubt on his sincerity. Since the start of January the dissident artist has lived on the island of Lesbos so he can report on a daily basis on the men, women and children trying to reach Europe. His Instagram account has become a veritable war machine, featuring new photos of exhausted refugees every day. His goal is to create a 2.0 memorial with the hashtags 'refugees' and 'safepassage'. Further proof of his commitment: the defender of freedom of expression cancelled two exhibitions in Copenhagen after Denmark passed a law authorising the government to seize all the migrants' possessions worth over 1,300 euros.”